Match: Kansas City Current (9-5-5, 32 pts) vs Portland Thorns (8-3-7, 31 pts)
When: Sunday, Sept. 18th at 4 p.m. CT
Where: Children’s Mercy Park – Kansas City
Watch: Paramount +
The first place (as of Saturday) Kansas City Current (9-5-5, 32 pts) hosts the second place Portland Thorns (8-3-7, 31 pts) in a battle that may decide the eventual Shield winners. Kansas City is one point in front of Portland but the Thorns have a game in hand this game
The Current are fresh off their first loss since May and their third game in a week while the Thorns haven’t played since the 9th when they beat Orlando to end a small winless streak.
One of the big challenges for the Current this match will be the absence of Elizabeth Ball. The Current’s mainstay center-back is suspended for yellow card accumulation just in time for the Current to face one of the most dynamic forwards in Sophie Smith.
Last Meeting: These teams met in their first game of the regular season. The Current rested many of their players after a tough Challenge Cup group stage before facing North Carolina in the semifinal four days later. The weaker lineup showed and the Thorns easily took a 3-0 win.
Current streak ended – Kansas City’s thirteen-game unbeaten streak ended Wednesday in Chicago with a 4-0 loss. It was the first defeat for the Current since May 25th. The Current strung together nine wins and four draws to climb from last place to the top of the table in an impressive run.
“I think any loss asks questions of yourself and so to feel that feeling again obviously, maybe just puts things into perspective that we have to realize the good that we did do, but also recognize that we’ve still got work to do,” Current head coach Matt Potter explained after training Friday. “So it’s those reminders sometimes, it’s important to learn from a loss, it’s important to regroup and then ready yourself to go again cause that’s the nature of this league. It’s an unforgiving league in that sense, it is part of what we do. We have to be bigger than any one game.”
Coach thoughts on the opponent
Current head coach Matt Potter replied when asked about Portland, “They have an identity that’s clearly their own, they’ve been a perennial powerhouse in the league for years and that hasn’t changed whether they’ve had a coaching change or not.”
“The experience that they have within the group goes without question,” Potter continued. “When you’ve got players such as Becky Sauerbrunn and Christine Sinclair you know they’re the best of the best to guide you. Then you’re seeing the ambition of the youth around that really fulfills its potential, so they’ve got threats everywhere. They’ve got good quality in terms of throughout the thirds of the field. They’re as good a team as you’re going to come across in the league, but every team has its strengths. Our job is to expose where we think we can take advantage of that and then they also have to be worried about the KC Current too, I’m sure.”
Lynn Williams (SEI-right leg)
Mallory Weber (SEI-right leg)
Sam Mewis (SEI-right leg)
Elizabeth Ball (suspension)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: N/A
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: N/A
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City Current forward Kristen Hamilton — The Current have three players tied with six goals, but Hamilton is the one to watch in the run of play. She has played the most minutes, only subbing off a couple of times but still running and going all out through stoppage time. If Kansas City needs a late goal, Hamilton is most likely to step up in the needed moment.
Portland Thorns Sophie Smith — Smith leads the Thorns with eleven goals and has a pair of assists. The 22-year-old forward is dynamic and dangerous and when Smith scores, Portland gets results with wins are draws. Smith played with the U.S. National team against Nigeria recently at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. The U.S. won 4-0, Smith scored two of those.