The Kansas City Current opened the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup with a draw on the road, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the story. They thoroughly controlled Racing Louisville FC on Friday night, despite playing away from home. It’s technically preseason, despite what the announcers kept saying, so of course there were mistakes. That said, there is a lot to look forward to in 2022.
The Goal Allowed
Let’s get the negative out of the way. I thought Sam Mewis was culpable on the goal. Her cross clears no defenders and sets up a quick counter with the left back Hailie Mace right next to her so she’s out of position. The announcers said “Mewis is all over the field,” but I didn’t see that at all. I thought she was clearly recovering from an injury and not herself. She’ll get better. I’m not worried one bit about Mewis.
On the goal, running the entire distance of the field seemed to gas a few players as Scott unexpectedly got beat in the midfield and then Alexis Loera found herself slightly out of position causing Jenna Winebrenner to have to cover for her and Jenna comes up just short cutting off Kizer’s final touch for the goal. This, much like SKC, appears to be where KC could be vulnerable. On the counter.
More Potent Attack
Lynn Williams was a monster out there and will be trouble for defenses, as she has been her whole NWSL career. Mace looked like a very good attacking LB and Kristen Edmonds looked nearly as dangerous on the right. They didn’t put Mace under much pressure defensively, though their one goal came under her side, but she was out of position because of the turnover. She did show some pace running down Jess McDonald once, which surprised me. If she had that on the goal maybe she breaks it up?
Kristen Hamilton appeared to be a winger but she strikes me more as a true forward. It’ll be interesting to see how she develops and who else can play that spot.
Addie McCain subbed on for Mewis in what appeared to be a planned halftime sub as Mewis returns to fitness. McCain played at the tip of the spear in the midfield (or false 9, more on that in a second) as well as on the wing when injuries and subs shuffled the deck. She got the games lone goal for Kansas City, but she probably had three good chances, with perhaps her worst resulting in the goal. It was her first goal in NWSL, but if she keeps playing like that, I’d expect her to contribute more this year.
Ultimately KC couldn’t find the winner, but because of an injury to Williams, they played with 10 women for the last 10+ minutes. I wouldn’t have risked Lynn either, but if they had another sub (they used all three windows) or Williams didn’t take the knock, I think they could have won it, as they still controlled the game down a woman.
What is this Formation?
What are we calling this formation? Is it a 4-3-3 with a midfielder at the false 9? Is it a 4-4-2 diamond? I guess it’s semantics. The fullbacks were all over the place, so there will be lots of pressure on the center backs and Desiree Scott to break up counters off turnovers (sound familiar SKC fans?).
The broadcast called it a 4-3-3, but they also had players listed in positions they weren’t playing, so it’s hard to put much weight on that. If Peter Vermes were coaching this team we could call it a 4-3-3 for sure, with a false 9, mostly played by Lo’eau Lobonta. She pressed really high at times. This will be something to watch. Also, it’ll be interesting to see if Matt Potter sticks to a formation or switches things up as Huw often did.
The Kids are Alright
I thought the rookies, particularly the CBs who were both rookies, played well. While they weren’t perfect, Winebrenner and Loera got the start over the more seasoned Elizabeth Ball and Taylor Leach. Leach was on the injury report, but Ball was not (Potter did say in the post-game Ball had some “lumps and bumps” in preseason). It’ll be interesting to see if the rookies lock down these jobs and provide a defensive base for years to come in Kansas City.
Of the other three rookies, who all got into the game, I thought Izzy Rodriguez looked the most interesting. She came on a LB and pushed Mace to RB and was exciting. Chardonnay Curran and Elyse Bennett didn’t get as much time, and the team was down a woman for much of their minutes after Williams left the match. Bennett had a few bad touches early, but started to settle in playing either as the false 9 or tip of the midfield diamond. I look forward to seeing more of all five of these rookies.
Unlike MLS, the draft absolutely matters in the NWSL. If they hit on these picks, or even just a few of them, that will go a long way for this team. They nailed it with Victoria and Kiki Pickett last year (and Loera was technically picked last year too, but did a 5th year of college). Kiki was flipped for Mewis, Victoria Pickett picked up where she left off in her rookie year and looks like a beast. And Loera is off to a good start. Good job to Huw Williams, who is rightfully sticking around, even if he’s not the coach.
NWSL only put out two minutes, but you can watch the whole game on replay via Paramount Plus. Now if only you could start the game late or replay it immediately after the game ended. I was travelling and was on the road during the match so only watched it Saturday morning. Do better Paramount!