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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