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Reading the Tea Leaves or What Do We Know About the KC Current?

A season preview ahead of the Challenge Cup

Thad Bell

One of our regular readers contributed this preview. (All I did was post it... Thad)

If you want to talk KC Current, the operative word is “new.” Everything is new. New season, new coach, new (temporary) home stadium, new players. Even the name is new. There’s so much new, it’s hard to know what to expect. What formation will they play? What style will the new manager favor? Do we have a shot at the playoffs this time around? You got questions? I got answers! ...Well, not really. I honestly have no idea. But I refuse to let that stop me! If you’re hankering for some wild, speculative guesses based on a few pre-preseason box scores, a pinch of soccer nous, and a whole lot of baseless conviction, you’ve come to the right place!

But before we crawl too far down that rabbit-hole (sounds unsanitary!), let’s take a moment and pour one out for KCWoSo and the players who are no longer Current (rimshot). They didn’t manage to net us a lot of wins or clean sheets or goals last season, but we’ll miss them all regardless because they were a part of something very special: the return of professional women’s soccer to Kansas City. Here’s to you, ladies!

Key Departures: D Rachel Corsie, D Kiki Pickett, D Katie Bowen, MF Gaby Vincent, F Darian Jenkins, F Jessica Silva, F Marianna Larroquette

Key Additions: MF Sam Mewis, F Lynn Williams, D Alex Loera (no other draftees have been officially signed yet and it remains to be seen just how “key” any of them are)

Manager: Matt Potter

With only two closed-door pre-preseason games (the 3rd was canceled due to weather) to draw information from, I take no responsibility for any projections I get wrong. That said, I also won’t soon let anyone forget about the things I get right.

Projected formation: 4-4-2 diamond

Last year, on the tiny Legends field, the team (eventually) deployed a diamond midfield, and early indications are they’re sticking with it. There are very few veteran forwards on the team behind Williams and Hamilton (only Jaycie Johnson and Hallie Mace qualify), so a two-striker system seems likely. The 4-3-3 is still a possibility, but unless the new manager is Peter Vermes in disguise, it’s hard to imagine the Current running a three-forward system with only five forwards on the roster.

Projected Starting Eleven: (from left to right) Franch, Weber, Loera, Ball, Edmonds, Scott, Pickett, LaBonta, Mewis, Williams, Hamilton

Player Primers

#3 Kristen Edmonds - 34/35. Edmonds is the team’s Swiss army knife. She can play either fullback, CD, DM, CM, or wing. She’s more effective wide than central, but she’s played exclusively at DM this preseason. She remains one of the team’s better players and is an important veteran presence. She’s a candidate for team captain or vice-captain. The team lists her as a midfielder, but I project her as the starting RB. Even though she’s likely the primary backup to Scott at DM, she’s too good to be a bench player. She’ll get plenty of minutes this year, probably at multiple positions.

#4 Hallie Mace - 25. Mace is another Swiss army knife, but on a smaller scale. She can play LB, CD, LW, or CF. Her best attribute is her athleticism; she might not look it, but she’s a bruiser. She’s also fast and has decent feet. She’s listed as a defender, and she could very well be the starting LB. I’m projecting her as a spot starter and sub on the forward line however. Mace was very highly touted out of college. She’s capable of going beast-mode and taking over.

#6 Lynn Williams - 28/29. Speaking of beast-mode, Williams has scored 56 goals in 115 NWSL appearances. Not starts. Appearances. While on-loan Down Under, she scored 7 in 9 games. The woman can flat-out produce. She’ll start every game she’s available and capable. Projection: starting forward and team golden boot winner.

#7 Elizabeth Ball - 26. Ball came into her own after starting a series of games as a central defender last season. Down the stretch, she was the best CD on the team, which might be part of the reason the Front Office felt comfortable releasing Scottish international, Rachel Corsie. Ball will be a starting CD or, at worst, a frequently used rotation option.

#8 Kate DelFava - 23. Despite being listed as a defender by the team, DelFava was a midfielder in college and looked quite good at CM at the end of last season. Projection: backup CM.

#10 Lo’eau LaBonta - 29. Lo is the midfield engine of this team. Even if she didn’t have a lick of talent, her tenacity and relentless effort might get her on the field. Her willingness to get forward and join the attack might suggest she’s a natural #10 (and she does have a little playmaking in her locker), but Lo is at her best as a box-to-box midfielder. If you haven’t already, go watch her mic’d up at KCCurrent.com. The woman idles at 60. Projection: midfield starter at the 8 or the 10.

#11 Desiree Scott - 34/35. Dezi Scott is the starting defensive midfielder (aka #6) for the gold medal-winning Canadian national team. Suffice to say, she’s very good and will be the starting DM for the Current as well.

#13 Maddie Nolf - 26. Last year, Huw tried to convert Nolf from a RB to a DM. Like a lot of Huw’s experiments, that didn’t work out, but late in the year Nolf started two games in her preferred RB role and was darn good. She has played RB exclusively so far this preseason and represents quality depth on the backline. She has also been getting some face-time in team videos this year. Congrats, Mads!

#15 Sam Mewis - 29. The Current midfield will be built around Mewis. She’s immediately one of the most skilled players in the squad AND she’s 6’ tall. She has a blend of athleticism and technical ability that defenders simply can’t deal with. Mewis is an elite attacking threat and will be excellent as a #8 or as a #10. Projection: nailed-on starter and bonafide star.

#16 Jaycie Johnson - 26/27. Hometown (ish) hero Jaycie Johnson has had an injury-riddled career thus far. Hopefully, that changes this year. She’s played as a forward this preseason and projects as forward depth.

#20 Mallory Weber - 27/28. One of Huw’s experiments that actually worked was converting Weber from a little used winger to a decent attacking fullback. She played on the left side last year, but has also put in a little time on the right this preseason. The starting LB is likely to be either Weber or Mace, but rookie Izzy Rodriquez will have something to say about that eventually too. Weber projects as an occasional starter and important member of the fullback rotation. She will also provide forward depth.

#21 Adrianna Franch - 31. The Salina, Kansas native is among the top 5 in all of the important NWSL goalkeeper stats, including first in all-time GAA. (Personally, I think she’s better than long-time USWNT starter Alyssa Naeher, but nobody asked me.) She’s the starter. She’s amazing. ‘Nuff said.

#22 Alex Loera - 23/24. Loera was a 4th round draft pick last year. Because of Covid eligibility, she opted to return to Santa Clara for a 5th season and all she did was lead them to the National Championship (which they won) and get named the best female collegiate player of 2021. Not too shabby. As of this writing, she is the only rookie to have signed with the team, which is a pretty good indication that she was a priority for the front office. I’m (perhaps overly optimistically) projecting Loera as a Day 1 starter.

#24 Taylor Leach - 30. If anyone spoils my Loera prediction, it will be Leach. The veteran CD spent the majority of last season injured, but she’ll provide some experience and savvy to an otherwise very young backline. Leach will be an important rotational player.

#25 Kristen Hamilton -29/30. Hamilton arrived mid-season last year as part of the Amy Rodriguez trade and immediately became an every-game starter at striker. She’ll continue to do so this season as she and Lynn Williams are by far the two best forwards on the team. Hamilton did not have much help last season and struggled to carry the offense herself. Look for her to find more room and have more success this year when defenses have to account for Williams and Mewis in addition to Hamilton. Projection: starting forward, knocks in 8-10 goals.

#28 Addie McCain - 22/23. McCain might look like she’d blow away in a stiff breeze, but she’s a pretty tough customer. She’s a playmaking #10 with clever feet and good vision. She’s more of a passer than a dribbler and, unlike many male #10s, she doesn’t mind tracking back or defending. Midfield is crowded with talent on this roster, so it’s difficult to project McCain as more than a rotational starter.

#38 Cassie Miller - 26/27. Miller, who has the absolutely amazing middle name Xenia, is the backup goalkeeper. She had 7 clean sheets in 18 appearances for the Red Stars last season, which suggests she’ll be a reliable presence between the pipes if Franch is called for USWNT duty.

#66 Chloe Logarzo - 27. Unfortunately, injuries and international duty limited Logarzo to only 6 games last year. When healthy, she’s an offense-minded #8 and would probably be an every-game starter alongside Mewis and Scott. Last September, while on national team duty with the Matildas (what a great nickname), Logarzo tore her ACL. There is no official timetable for her return, but it could be anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks before she even resumes training. Projection: rehab.

#99 Victoria Pickett - 25/26. #99 made a case for rookie of the year consideration right out of the gate. Ultimately she wasn’t able to sustain that trajectory, but her play did win her call-ups to Canadian NT camps and solidified her place as a regular KCWoSo starter. Pickett is an excellent dribbler and can make maze-y attacking runs through the middle. She’s more facilitator than scorer. Sadly, last season there weren’t many players to facilitate. Like Hamilton, Pickett should benefit from having better players around her. I’m projecting that she’ll be one of a rotating cast of #8s, sharing time with LaBonta and rookie Chardonnay Curran.

Notable Unsigned Players - The preseason games so far are pretty obviously being used to evaluate these players; they’ve all featured heavily. You can expect to see several of them signed in the coming days. A couple of names to know:

Forward Elyse Bennett was the team’s 1st round draft pick. 2nd round pick Chardonnay Curran has played both as a #6 and as a #8 so far. I get the feeling the team hopes she can be Dezi Scott’s understudy. 4th round pick Izzy Rodriquez went 90 minutes at LB in both games. Keep an eye on her. Several pundits thought she should have gone in the first or second round. Trialist Mollie Belisle scored a staggering 15 goals in 19 games for Georgia last year. They beat up a couple of cupcakes, but still...

Season Prediction: With the exception of two (very) big names, the core of this team is largely the same as it was at the end of last year. It might seem naive to predict more than a marginal improvement, but I think we can expect a mid-table finish and a playoff appearance. The reasons for this pie-eyed optimism? 1) Call-ups and a ridiculous injury list meant the team never fielded a first-choice lineup last year. 2) Then coach Huw Williams liked to tinker. It’s difficult to criticize him too much for this, but he loved to move players around and test them in different spots. Consequently, it was rare that all 11 players looked in sync and confident. 3) Despite 1 and 2, by the end of the season the team had become very competitive with their opponents despite the (sometimes huge) talent gap. Now with Franch, Mewis, and Williams, that gap is much narrower. The Current takes a modest but notable step forward this year, then become a contender in ‘23 when they open the new stadium.

Do you share my optimism or think I’m a shameless homer, doomed to have my hopes crushed like an empty can at a frat party? Let us know in the comments!