Kansas City Current secures first playoff berth with 3-0 win

Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta blasted a pass from Kate Del Fava into the goal for a 1-0 Kansas City lead. The Current won the match 3-0, locking in a spot in the upcoming NWSL playoffs. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The Kansas City Current locked down an NWSL playoff spot — the first in team history — with a 3-0 win over the Washington Spirit at Children’s Mercy Park Sunday afternoon. After early season disappointments left the team at the bottom of the standings, the Current still has the chance to finish on top.

Nearly ten thousand fans enjoyed the warm early fall weather and bright sunshine, and Lo’eau LaBonta, CeCe Kizer and Clair Lavogez each scored first-half goals to ensure the crowd enjoyed the outcome as well.

The Current pressed high in the early going and created some high-quality chances. CeCe Kizer was aggressive in taking on Spirit dribblers in their own end, and Claire Lavogez won possessions by anticipating and disrupting Washington’s passing lanes.

Kansas City had some great chances in the first few minutes, but was denied by three great saves from Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury.

LaBonta finally got the home side on the board in the 18th minute on a full-field build-up. After the ball crossed the midway line, Alex Loera played it up the right side to Kate Del Fava who beat a challenge from defender Julia Roddar and then lofted a cross to Lo’eau LaBonta centered just outside the 18-yard box.

LaBonta took a touch to settle the ball and then turned on it, blasting it high into the right corner of the goal.

The Current continued the offensive pressure, but mis-timed two opportunities in quick succession, leading to apparent goals waved off for offsides.

Kizer earned the second goal for the Current in the 38th minute, picking up the rebound of a corner kick from Loera and knocking it in from the 6-yard line.

Claire Lavogez wrapped the scoring action just 3 minutes later, picking up Kristen Hamilton’s pass from the endline and tapping it past Kingsbury from close range.

The Spirit made substitutions through the second half and continued to press for a goal, holding possession for long stretches but unable to create dangerous chances against Kansas City’s defense.

The Current will play its final regular season match next Sunday against Louisville FC. Kansas City holds third place in the standings, but final playoff seeding and scheduling will depend on the next week’s outcomes. The top six teams make the playoffs, and the top four will play host to at least one playoff match.

Defender Alex Loera signed a baby’s onesie after the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward CeCe Kizer stretched out to take a shot on goal but was denied by Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans celebrated in the south stands after CeCe Kizer’s goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Washington midfielder Bayley Feist knocked the ball away from defender Kate Del Fava. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans could get faces painted on the stadium plaza before the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Claire Lavogez lined up a shot on goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans in the Blue Crew supporters’ section celebrated the win after the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward CeCe Kizer went high to head the ball away from Washington midfielder Andi Sullivan. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Rhythm and blues singer Carlton Rashad entertained the crowd on the stadium plaza before the game and performed the national anthem. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward CeCe Kizer smiled as her shot rolled into the corner of the Washington goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans enjoyed games and entertainment on the stadium plaza before the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta headed the ball near the Washington goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Families enjoyed the warm day together at Children’s Mercy Park. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Kristen Hamilton fought for possession with Washington defender Amber Brooks. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

Pirates control Chargers for 49-0 victory

Sophomore running back Skyler Little sprinted toward the end zone, scoring the 7th and final touchdown in Piper’s 49-0 win over Topeka West. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The Piper Pirates traveled to Topeka for a rare Saturday daytime game, facing off against the Topeka West Chargers at Hummer Sports Park and powering their way to a 49-0 win. Piper scored all its points in the first half, and head coach John Black used the second half to get experience for his reserve players.

The Chargers, despite coming into the game with an 0-3 record, looked formidable on their opening drive, featuring an option offense led by quarterback Malachi Berg. The Chargers moved the ball all the way to the Piper 9-yard line then gave up a fumble, ending their best scoring threat of the game.

Piper started deep in its own end, but runs from running back Zane Pudenz and quarterback Logan Ladish brought the ball out near midfield. Running back Miguel Martin then broke a 58-yard touchdown run to start the scoring.

Collin Ketter recovered another Chargers fumble on the next possession to give Piper a short field from the Topeka West 28-yard line. Zane Pudenz scored on the ground to put the Pirates up by 14.

With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Zane Pudenz scored again, this time on defense, scooping a Topeka West fumble and running it back for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

J.J. Jarrett opened the second quarter scoring with a 67-yard run, making great use of the downfield blocking from Lamar Lynch and Camden Beebe.

On the next possession, Piper took over at the Topeka West 29-yard line after another fumble. On the next play, Ladish hit receiver Mason L’Heureux in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown and 35-0 lead.

Topeka West pinned the Pirates deep on the next possession by punting to the Piper 12-yard line, but Ladish responded with an 88-yard touchdown run, finding a crease in the defensive front and then taking off up the left sideline.

On the next possession, Piper drove the ball down to the Chargers 25-yard line, and running back Skyler Little ran the ball around the left side for a touchdown and the final 49-0 margin.

Zane Busick and Kaleb Kirgan split duties on the PAT attempts, converting all seven.

Quarterback Gannon Roth led the Pirates onto the field in the second half. After two yardage-losing plays from scrimmage, Black called a timeout to get the squad together.

Due to the size of the lead, there were no clock stoppages in the second half, and with both teams in a run-heavy offense, the time slipped away quickly to the end of the game.

After the game, Black talked with his team about their goal of returning to Hummer Sports Park at the end of the season, when the KSHSAA Class 4A state championship is played there.

Thursday and Saturday games are being scheduled more frequently this year due to a shortage of available officials. The state activities association has made an appeal for new officials to register at https://www.kshsaa.org/Public/Official/NewOfficials.cfm. KSHSAA touts the benefits of staying involved in sports and earning some extra income.

The Piper Pirates are now 2-2 for the season. They will play at home against the Turner Golden Bears next Friday starting at 7:00 P.M.

Junior running back Zane Pudenz powered across the goal line in the first quarter. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Senior lineman Declan Waters led the team onto the field before the game. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


The Piper cheerleaders practiced some stunts during halftime. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Junior defensive back Zane Pudenz secured a Topeka West fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Sophomore running back Skyler Little ran for a touchdown, with some blocking from senior lineman Camden Beebe (70). (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Senior receiver Mason L’Heureux caught a 29-yard touchdown pass. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Senior kicker Zane Busick converted four extra points. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Senior quarterback Logan Ladish joked with teammates after his 88-yard touchdown run. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Senior quarterback Logan Ladish threw down field. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Senior running back Miguel Martin broke out for a 58-yard touchdown. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


The Topeka West marching band halftime show involved props, backdrops, and a grand piano. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

With NWSL playoff berth at stake, Current to hold last regular season home match today

Looking to keep pace in a jam-packed National Women’s Soccer League table and earn a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history, the Kansas City Current (9-5-6, 33 pts, T-4th place) will play host to the Washington Spirit (3-7-10, 19 pts, 10th place) Sunday, Sept. 25, at Children’s Mercy Park.

The Current’s final home match of the 2022 regular season kicks off at 4 p.m. and can be streamed on Paramount+.

The Current bounced back from having its 13-match unbeaten streak snapped with a massive 1-1 home draw against the Portland Thorns Sunday.

Despite chances for both sides, the first goal of the contest didn’t come until the 87th minute, with Portland forward Rocky Rodriguez opening the scoring.

Deep into second-half stoppage time, the Current responded. Defender Hailie Mace won a free kick just outside of Portland’s penalty area and attempted the ensuing free kick after the ball was rolled forward by fellow defender Kristen Edmonds. Mace’s bullet took a deflection off a Portland defender and fizzed into the net to secure the tie.

Washington enters Sunday’s match on the heels of a 2-1 road loss to Angel City FC Wednesday night. The Spirit generated more dangerous scoring chances than Angel City, recording six shots on target to Angel City’s four, but ultimately succumbed to two well-worked goals.

Angel City opened the scoring in the 39th minute with a sliding goal by forward Claire Emslie at the back post on an assist from defender Ali Riley. Forward Simone Charley provided the insurance goal in the 51st minute, heading a cross from defender Jasmyne Spencer into the bottom corner of the net. Spirit forward Ashley Hatch pulled a goal back with a penalty kick in the 88th minute, but Washington was unable to complete the comeback

Current trying to secure playoff berth

With a win over Washington Sunday, the Current could not only secure a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history, but also continue building on one of the greatest season-to-season turnarounds in the history of the NWSL.

Entering Sunday, Kansas City has 33 points on the season, which is 17 points better than the club’s point total (16) in the 2021 regular season. That already ranks as the fifth-best single-season turnaround in league history, and Kansas City is just one point behind the 2015-2016 Portland Thorns, who improved by 18 points between 2015 and 2016. With four points across its last two matches, Kansas City would match the third-best turnaround in league history, and two wins would catapult the Current to second place all-time.

As Kansas City looks to secure a playoff berth and potentially earn a first-round bye, the club can make even more history in the process by capping an impressive bounce-back season. It won’t come easily, though. The Current do face two squads already eliminated from NWSL Playoff contention in their last two matches, but the fine margins of the league table mean the club has little room for error. First and sixth place are separated by just five points, while the Current are four points ahead of seventh-place Angel City.

Current able to come back

Over Kansas City’s last 15 matches, trailing by a goal has not phased head coach Matt Potter’s squad. Kansas City’s ability to erase deficits and turn losses into wins has been one of the primary reasons for the team’s rise up the NWSL standings.

The Current have lost just once since May 30, which also marked the lone time that the team was unable to erase a one-goal deficit in any of its last 15 contests. In all other instances, the team is 2-0-4 when trailing by a goal since May 30. Also of note, five of those six matches have been at Children’s Mercy Park, a pivotal factor why Kansas City has not lost a home match since May 8.

Forward Cece Kizer has stepped up when the Current have trailed, with five equalizing or go-ahead goals over this stretch, but Mace has been just as clutch for Kansas City in recent weeks. All four of Mace’s goals in the 2022 regular season have been game-tying or game-winning goals, including the equalizer last weekend against Portland and the game-winning penalty kick on Sept. 11 against NJ-NY Gotham FC.

Franch records eight saves against Thorns

After appearing in each of the Current’s last 10 matches before Wednesday’s game off, a rejuvenated Franch recorded eight saves against Portland and was a crucial reason why Kansas City was able to come away with a draw. The best save in her performance came in the 65th minute, when Franch essentially did the splits to deny a close-range shot from Portland forward Sophia Smith at the near post with a kick save.

Franch’s eight saves against Portland marked her second highest save total in the 2022 regular season — only behind a nine-save performance in the Current’s season-opening loss to Portland.

Franch’s torrid save pace from earlier in the season has slowed, but she’s still among the league’s top shot-stoppers in terms of total saves as the regular season draws to a close. Franch ranks fourth in the NWSL with 62 saves entering Sunday’s match, while her 1.33 goals against average ranks seventh in the league among goalkeepers who have made at least 15 appearances.

Current continue season ticket drive

The Kansas City Current officially launched season ticket deposits for the first stadium purpose-built for a women’s professional soccer team. Fans can place a deposit and learn more at KCCurrentStadium.com.

Players to watch

Kansas City Current midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta — LaBonta has had a remarkable individual 2022 campaign, and she’ll look to unveil one of her trademark goal celebrations one more time for the Children’s Mercy Park faithful Sunday. The Rancho Cucamonga, California, native is tied for both the team and franchise record with six goals, the most of any season in her professional career, and her four assists are the third-highest total in the NWSL. LaBonta also earned selections to the July and August Best XI of the Month.

Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch — Washington’s front four had a different look when Kansas City and Washington last faced off, a 1-0 Current win July 10. The Spirit had multiple players unavailable due to their participation in the ongoing Concacaf W Championship which included Hatch, the team’s leading goal scorer entering Sunday with nine goals. The United States Women’s National Team mainstay won the NWSL Golden Boot award last season, and she’s scored four times in her last four appearances for Washington in 2022.

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