The Kansas City Current and the Chicago Red Stars faced off with a chance to win their group and advance in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. KC would be able to advance on a draw or win, only a loss would end their tournament.
And they would do enough to advance.
Their starting lineup included a second start for goalkeeper Cassie Miller, formerly of the Red Stars. The initial formation saw a backline of Weber, Winebrenner, Leach, Ball and Rodriguez, two d-mids with Scott and Edmonds, Pickett at the 10 and Hamilton and Bennett at forward. In attack that turned into a three back with the wing backs getting forward.
It's go time ⌛️#KCvCHI | #TealRising pic.twitter.com/OcRdyCjiBk— KC Current (@thekccurrent) April 24, 2022
KC remained without many of their most offensively talented players, with Sam Mewis and Hailie Mace still on the injured list and of course, Lynn Williams out for the season.
Today's @saintlukeskc Health Report pic.twitter.com/jniHZlyxvw— KC Current (@thekccurrent) April 24, 2022
Chicago put out a very defensive lineup, missing many of their stars, including Mallory Pugh.
Tonight’s starters. Let’s bring it home. pic.twitter.com/x6aHerv2E0— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) April 24, 2022
The Current got off to a quick start putting Chicago under steady pressure and getting the first shot on goal when Kristen Hamilton stung a shot off the palms of Alyssa Naeher in the 7th minute before Chicago cleared their lines.
KC remained in control and had a couple near chances in the 26th minute when a cross somehow went all the way through the box but was just behind Hamilton who cycled it around and got a ball in to Bennett who blasted it off a charging Naeher. Both players collided and went down hard but remained in the game.
In the 29th minute Mallory Weber was making a run to the endline when she was bodied out of bounds and into the boards. No foul was given and the ref called a goal kick. Luckily, Weber was able to continue, despite the hard crash.
Chicago had their best chance of the early portion of the game in the 35th minute when Bianca St. Georges basically dribbled through the entire left side of the Current’s field but ultimately put the ball over the bar. It wouldn’t be the last we’d see of St. Georges in this game.
Almost immediately after in the 36th minute, Izzy Rodriguez played a great ball through to Hamilton who was in alone on goal but Naeher came up huge and stopped her shot, keeping it 0-0.
After that, Chicago had a fair bit of possession and nearly had the most dangerous chance of the game when Victoria Pickett gave the ball away deep in her own zone, but she corrected her own mistake and poked the ball away in the box. It was an uncharacteristic mistake from Pickett after she had a delightful first half, dribbling all over the midfield.
Just before the half, Arin Wright picked up the games first yellow coming in late on the aforementioned Pickett who had stolen the ball in the midfield in a dangerous spot. The ensuing freekick from Rodriguez would sail a bit over the bar and leave the game scoreless at the half.
To start the second half Izzy Rodriguez was subbed off for Alex Loera. That pushed Edmonds to LB and Loera into the defensive midfield spot. Loera would make an instant impact. Chicago failed to clear a ball which Desi Scott picked off, played into Elyse Bennett who laid it off for Loera who hit a great strike into the corner to make it 1-0. This was Loera’s first career goal.
What a BEAUT of a first career goal from @alexisaloera!!!! Take a bow!!! #KCvCHI pic.twitter.com/PXrhfQDHbe— KC Current (@thekccurrent) April 24, 2022
The lead would be short lived as a seemingly innocuous ball was chipped into the box and St. Georges got on the end of it, beating Elizabeth Ball, and poking it into the net off the post. She was assisted by Ella Stevens.
Game on in KC @biancastgeorges | @chicagoredstars pic.twitter.com/xAFnZRVcTV— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) April 24, 2022
Chicago would be all over Kansas City after that. They had numerous chances and half chances but Cassie Miller and her defenders would come up time and time again.
In the 67th, with the team struggling, Matt Potter went to his bench and brought on Chardonnay Curran and Lo’eau LaBonta. That would move Edmonds to right back (her third position of the game) and... frankly it was unclear. It seemed like a formation change with four in the back, Ball to LB, Bennett alone up top with three midfielders underneath her (Hamilton, Curran and LaBonta), with Curran in the middle.
In the 70th Chicago would come knocking on the door again with a ball pinging around in the box only to be headed off the line by Edmonds.
In the 76th, seemingly out of nothing, Bennett absolutely made Tatumn Milazzo look silly turning her inside out and crossing the ball into the box for a hard charging Hamilton who scored her fifth goal of the Challenge Cup and put KC back ahead 2-1. It was Bennet’s second assist of the day and the 4th of the tournament.
Elyse Bennett, stop it!!— The Equalizer (@EqualizerSoccer) April 24, 2022
Bennett 'megs her defender, and Kristen Hamilton finishes the cross for the @thekccurrent goal!#KCvCHI | 2-1 pic.twitter.com/8S905K5sbw
Just after that, Bennett would be subbed off for Katie Del Fava in the 79th. Followed by Hamilton for Addie McCain in the 89th.
While Chicago would keep the pressure on, it wouldn’t be enough as Kansas City would advance. They will mostly likely host the North Carolina Courage on May 4th in the semi-finals of the NWSL Challenge Cup.