Kansas City NWSL Back in Action for First-Time Showdown Against North Carolina Courage Kansas City Current

Kansas City NWSL Back in Action for First-Time Showdown Against North Carolina Courage

KANSAS CITY (July 22, 2021) — Following a bye week, Kansas City NWSL returns home to Legends Field on Friday. Kansas City hosts the North Carolina Courage, marking the inaugural showdown between the two clubs. Friday’s match kicks off at 7 p.m. CT and can be streamed live on Twitch.

Kansas City was last in action on July 11, falling 2-0 to the OL Reign. Reign forward Bethany Balcer scored the first of her two first-half goals in the third minute, intercepting a pass from Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and slotting it into an open net. In the 29th minute Balcer doubled the lead courtesy of a headed finish inside the six-yard box following a cross from midfielder Sofia Huerta. 

Kansas City appeared to have a lifeline in the second half following a red card to OL Reign goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi in the 70th minute, but KC was unable to break through the Reign’s back line and get back into the match despite finishing with seven shots on target.

North Carolina meanwhile, enters Friday’s match on the heels of two consecutive losses. The sixth-place Courage’s most recent defeat came on July 17, in a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dash. Houston opened the scoring in the ninth minute through a goal by forward Shea Groom, but North Carolina leveled seven minutes later with a goal from forward Kristen Hamilton (now with Kansas City)

In the second half, Houston midfielder Gabby Seiler curled in a free kick from 23 yards out that served as the decisive goal. However, the result could have been entirely different had North Carolina not had two first-half apparent goals ruled offside. 

GET TO KNOW NORTH CAROLINA
Friday’s match marks a semi-milestone in Kansas City’s history, as the North Carolina Courage are the final team that Kansas City has yet to play in either the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup or the regular season. 

Head coach Paul Riley’s team was briefly on top of the NWSL table following a 2-0 victory over the Orlando Pride on July 4, but the Courage have slipped in recent weeks in part due to critical Olympic-related absences in all three levels of North Carolina’s formation. Defender Abby Erceg (New Zealand), midfielder Sam Mewis (United States), and forward Lynn Williams (United States) were all named to the NWSL’s Team of the Month for June. Williams, who is tied for the NWSL lead in goals with five, Mewis, Erceg, and midfielder Debinha (Brazil) are all representing their countries in Tokyo, and the Courage are beginning to feel their absence.

After scoring a blistering 14 goals in their first eight games, North Carolina has mustered just one goal in its last two matches. Still, though, the Courage’s 15 regular-season goals are second in the league, one behind Portland’s total of 16. North Carolina also leads the league in assists with 12, with defender Carson Pickett (3), Debinha (2), and Williams (2) making up over half of that total. In goal, Casey Murphy sits at second place in the NWSL with 36 saves and is tied for the league lead with four clean sheets. 

The July 4 victory against Orlando extended the Courage’s winning streak to four games before things grinded to a halt a bit over the last two weeks. However, the perhaps unlucky loss to Houston last week makes things apparent that North Carolina is more than capable of competing with the NWSL’s best without its most critical players. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City NWSL: Defender Kiki Pickett — 
Slowly but surely, Kansas City NWSL’s first-ever draft pick is working herself into the fold. After making her NWSL debut on June 26 against the Washington Spirit, former Stanford defender Kiki Pickett has played a bigger part in Kansas City’s last two matches. Pickett saw 19 minutes of action in Kansas City’s 1-1 draw with NJ/NY Gotham FC and played the entire second half in Kansas City’s 2-0 loss to OL Reign. She impressed in her 45-minute cameo, and as the rookie grows more comfortable with the NWSL, Pickett should no-doubt be a vital part of Kansas City’s back line. 

North Carolina Courage: Forward Jessica McDonald— The 33-year-old and 2019 Women’s World Cup champion has just two goals to her name in the 2021 regular season, but nearly doubled that total in last week’s match against the Houston Dash. It appeared McDonald had opened the scoring in the third minute of last Friday’s game, but her goal was ruled offside by the assistant referee. With the Courage trailing 2-1 in the second half, McDonald got her foot to a cross inside the Houston six-yard box, but her effort struck the crossbar. Still, the University of North Carolina graduate is a dynamic attacking presence that is a handful for most defenses to deal with. Look for McDonald to try and test Kansas City’s defense early and often on Friday.

NORTH CAROLINA HIGHLIGHTS KANSAS CITY’S INTERESTING SCHEDULING QUIRK
Including Friday’s match, Kansas City has 14 matches remaining in its inaugural season in the NWSL. Three of those 14 games come against the North Carolina Courage, a team that Kansas City plays on the road on August 21 and hosts on September 5. 

Kansas City plays four NWSL squads twice more in the regular season, including two matches each against the OL Reign and first-place Portland Thorns, but the Courage stand out as a unique outlier on Kansas City’s schedule. Over the next three months, Kansas City and North Carolina should become very familiar with one another. 

HOW TO FOLLOW ALONG

Tickets for Friday’s match are still available. More information about the different ways to join the action at Legends Field can be found at www.kansascitycurrent.com/tickets

KANSAS CITY (July 22, 2021) — Following a bye week, Kansas City NWSL returns home to Legends Field on Friday. Kansas City hosts the North Carolina Courage, marking the inaugural showdown between the two clubs. Friday’s match kicks off at 7 p.m. CT and can be streamed live on Twitch.

Kansas City was last in action on July 11, falling 2-0 to the OL Reign. Reign forward Bethany Balcer scored the first of her two first-half goals in the third minute, intercepting a pass from Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and slotting it into an open net. In the 29th minute Balcer doubled the lead courtesy of a headed finish inside the six-yard box following a cross from midfielder Sofia Huerta. 

Kansas City appeared to have a lifeline in the second half following a red card to OL Reign goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi in the 70th minute, but KC was unable to break through the Reign’s back line and get back into the match despite finishing with seven shots on target.

North Carolina meanwhile, enters Friday’s match on the heels of two consecutive losses. The sixth-place Courage’s most recent defeat came on July 17, in a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dash. Houston opened the scoring in the ninth minute through a goal by forward Shea Groom, but North Carolina leveled seven minutes later with a goal from forward Kristen Hamilton (now with Kansas City)

In the second half, Houston midfielder Gabby Seiler curled in a free kick from 23 yards out that served as the decisive goal. However, the result could have been entirely different had North Carolina not had two first-half apparent goals ruled offside. 

GET TO KNOW NORTH CAROLINA
Friday’s match marks a semi-milestone in Kansas City’s history, as the North Carolina Courage are the final team that Kansas City has yet to play in either the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup or the regular season. 

Head coach Paul Riley’s team was briefly on top of the NWSL table following a 2-0 victory over the Orlando Pride on July 4, but the Courage have slipped in recent weeks in part due to critical Olympic-related absences in all three levels of North Carolina’s formation. Defender Abby Erceg (New Zealand), midfielder Sam Mewis (United States), and forward Lynn Williams (United States) were all named to the NWSL’s Team of the Month for June. Williams, who is tied for the NWSL lead in goals with five, Mewis, Erceg, and midfielder Debinha (Brazil) are all representing their countries in Tokyo, and the Courage are beginning to feel their absence.

After scoring a blistering 14 goals in their first eight games, North Carolina has mustered just one goal in its last two matches. Still, though, the Courage’s 15 regular-season goals are second in the league, one behind Portland’s total of 16. North Carolina also leads the league in assists with 12, with defender Carson Pickett (3), Debinha (2), and Williams (2) making up over half of that total. In goal, Casey Murphy sits at second place in the NWSL with 36 saves and is tied for the league lead with four clean sheets. 

The July 4 victory against Orlando extended the Courage’s winning streak to four games before things grinded to a halt a bit over the last two weeks. However, the perhaps unlucky loss to Houston last week makes things apparent that North Carolina is more than capable of competing with the NWSL’s best without its most critical players. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City NWSL: Defender Kiki Pickett — 
Slowly but surely, Kansas City NWSL’s first-ever draft pick is working herself into the fold. After making her NWSL debut on June 26 against the Washington Spirit, former Stanford defender Kiki Pickett has played a bigger part in Kansas City’s last two matches. Pickett saw 19 minutes of action in Kansas City’s 1-1 draw with NJ/NY Gotham FC and played the entire second half in Kansas City’s 2-0 loss to OL Reign. She impressed in her 45-minute cameo, and as the rookie grows more comfortable with the NWSL, Pickett should no-doubt be a vital part of Kansas City’s back line. 

North Carolina Courage: Forward Jessica McDonald— The 33-year-old and 2019 Women’s World Cup champion has just two goals to her name in the 2021 regular season, but nearly doubled that total in last week’s match against the Houston Dash. It appeared McDonald had opened the scoring in the third minute of last Friday’s game, but her goal was ruled offside by the assistant referee. With the Courage trailing 2-1 in the second half, McDonald got her foot to a cross inside the Houston six-yard box, but her effort struck the crossbar. Still, the University of North Carolina graduate is a dynamic attacking presence that is a handful for most defenses to deal with. Look for McDonald to try and test Kansas City’s defense early and often on Friday.

NORTH CAROLINA HIGHLIGHTS KANSAS CITY’S INTERESTING SCHEDULING QUIRK
Including Friday’s match, Kansas City has 14 matches remaining in its inaugural season in the NWSL. Three of those 14 games come against the North Carolina Courage, a team that Kansas City plays on the road on August 21 and hosts on September 5. 

Kansas City plays four NWSL squads twice more in the regular season, including two matches each against the OL Reign and first-place Portland Thorns, but the Courage stand out as a unique outlier on Kansas City’s schedule. Over the next three months, Kansas City and North Carolina should become very familiar with one another. 

HOW TO FOLLOW ALONG

Tickets for Friday’s match are still available. More information about the different ways to join the action at Legends Field can be found at www.kansascitycurrent.com/tickets

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