Match Preview: Kansas City Current squares off against  Houston in history-making NWSL playoff matchup Kansas City Current

Match Preview: Kansas City Current squares off against Houston in history-making NWSL playoff matchup

The Kansas City Current will make franchise history Oct. 16, as the club visits the Houston Dash in the first round of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Playoffs. Sunday’s match kicks off at 4 p.m. CT and can be viewed nationally on Paramount+. ESPN Kansas City 1510 AM, 94.5 FM will broadcast the match locally.

Kansas City’s entry to the playoffs was largely possible thanks to a 13-game unbeaten streak that saw the team go through the months of June, July and Aug. without a mark in the loss column. On Sept. 25, the Current officially secured a spot in the playoffs with a 3-0 win over the Washington Spirit. Kansas City closed out the regular season with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Racing Louisville FC on a goal scored in stoppage time, which was only the Current’s second loss since May 25.

The Dash closed its season by winning two of the last three matches, which allowed Houston to leapfrog Kansas City in the league standings based on goal differential. The Dash needed a win in its final match of the regular season to secure a home playoff match, but Houston went into halftime of its match against Washington Oct. 1 tied at 1-1. However, the Dash secured a 2-1 win after a close-range header from Houston forward Nichelle Prince in the 58th minute hit the post and deflected off Spirit defender Julia Roddar before crossing the goal line.

FIRST-TIME STAGE FOR FAMILIAR FOES
Sunday’s meeting between Kansas City and Houston marks the fifth meeting between the sides in all competitions in 2022, and the ninth meeting since the Current joined the league in 2021. The Dash will officially become the most-played opponent in franchise history in Sunday’s contest, surpassing the Chicago Red Stars, who Kansas City has faced eight total times since 2021.

Despite the frequency in which the Current and Dash meet, the clubs’ last meeting in the 2022 season came July 1. Kansas City won 2-1 at PNC Stadium, the site of Sunday’s playoff meeting, on goals by LaBonta and defender Hailie Mace. Houston defeated Kansas City in the first regular season meeting May 8, but the Current swept both meetings in the Challenge Cup.

At any rate, the Dash enter the postseason as one of the NWSL’s most potent offenses. Houston’s 35 regular season goals rank third in the league and second among clubs qualified for the postseason. Midseason trade acquisition Ebony Salmon has been a big reason why. The former Racing Louisville forward has scored nine goals in 12 appearances for the Dash after making her Houston debut July 1. Houston’s goalscoring is evenly distributed behind Salmon’s total and so are the Dash’s assist numbers, as Houston has four players with three or more assists.

On the defensive side, Houston’s 27 goals conceded are the fourth highest of any playoff squad, though Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell has kept six clean sheets in the 2022 regular season.

HISTORIC TEAM, HISTORIC SEASON
The 2022 season has been a monumental one for Kansas City in all competitions. After making a statement in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, winning the Central Division and making the semifinals of the competition, the Current built on that momentum with an impressive regular season.

The Current’s 13-match unbeaten streak stands atop those accomplishments, with Kansas City’s streak standing alone as the second-longest unbeaten streak in NWSL history. Several players stood out not just during the unbeaten streak, but throughout the season, and as a result several franchise records fell.

Kansas City set club records for wins (10), goals (29) and points (36) in a season, all while orchestrating one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NWSL history. Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta and forward Cece Kizer tied for seven goals in the 2022 regular season, which set a new franchise record, while LaBonta also set a franchise record for assists (4) and penalty kick goals (5) in a season. Goalkeeper AD Franch had a stellar individual campaign in 2022, and her 66 saves and five shutouts both set franchise records. Finally, forward Kristen Hamilton’s 1,828 minutes played in the regular season set a franchise record.

BUSY OVER BREAK
Despite having a week off before the start of the postseason, the club was busy on and off the pitch. Kansas City had three players called up to their respective national teams during the Oct. FIFA International Window: midfielders Desiree Scott (Canada) and Chloe Logarzo (Australia) and defender Hailie Mace (United States).

Scott did not feature in Canada’s first match of the window, a 2-0 win over Argentina Oct. 6. She did start and play 90 minutes and captain the Canadian side in a 4-0 win over Morocco Oct. 10. Logarzo, meanwhile, made a historic return to play for Australia after not featuring for the Matildas since September 2021, when she tore her ACL in an international friendly against Ireland. Logarzo appeared as a second-half substitute in Australia’s 4-1 victory over South Africa Oct. 8.

Mace was called up to the United States squad for the second consecutive international window and saw significant action across two matches against England and Spain. Mace came in as a first-half substitute in the United States’ 2-1 loss to England Oct. 7, and played for over 70 minutes, then started and played 62 minutes in the United States’ 2-0 loss to Spain Oct. 11.

Off the pitch, the Kansas City Current officially broke ground on its historic stadium at Berkely Riverfront Park, the first purpose-built venue for a professional women’s sports team in the world Oct. 6. The celebration featured dignitaries and celebrities from across the region along with thousands of fans. The stadium is set to open for the 2024 season.

WATCH PARTY
For the team’s first-ever playoff match, the Kansas City Current Official Watch Party, presented by Boulevard Brewing Co. returns. Sunday’s watch party begins at 3 p.m. and will be held at Bar K. The event will feature halftime and full-time giveaways, drink specials, and the Teal Mobile selling the latest merchandise on-site.

For more information about Sunday’s watch party, click here.

AWARDS SEASON
The Current’s success this season has not gone unnoticed across the league. This week defender Hailie Mace was named to the Sept./Oct. NWSL Best XI, presented by Mastercard. This is her second award this season and the third straight month Kansas City has been represented.

In other honors, the league announced the nominees for the season’s NWSL Awards this week. Head coach Matt Potter (Coach of the Year) and AD Franch (Goalkeeper of the Year) were each nominated. Voting for the final awards begins immediately, with fans being able to weigh in. Fans wishing to vote on the individual award winners, Best XI, and Best XI Second Team can access the voting ballot here.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City Current forward Kristen Hamilton — While LaBonta and Kizer ended the season atop Kansas City’s goalscoring ranks in the regular season, Hamilton’s 11 goals scored in all competitions remains a team high entering the 2022 postseason. The veteran forward is no stranger to the postseason stage, with eight career NWSL postseason appearances during her time with the Western New York Flash/North Carolina Courage. Despite not scoring since Aug. 28, Hamilton leads the Current in total shots (46) and shots on target (24).

Houston Dash forward Maria Sánchez — Behind Salmon, forward Maria Sánchez is Houston’s top playmaker. Sánchez has generated a team-high 47 chances, which ranks third in the NWSL, while scoring two goals and recording four assists in the regular season. During the Challenge Cup, Sánchez provided an assist in Houston’s 2-1 loss to the Current April 15.

MATCH INFO
Houston Dash vs. Kansas City Current
Sunday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. CT
PNC Stadium – Houston, Texas
Radio on ESPN Kansas City 1510 AM, 94.5 FM
Stream on Paramount+

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