Match Preview: Kansas City Current’s first playoff run continues against OL Reign in NWSL semifinals Kansas City Current

Match Preview: Kansas City Current’s first playoff run continues against OL Reign in NWSL semifinals

Following a thrilling first-round victory in the quarterfinal round of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) playoffs, the #5 Kansas City Current finds itself just one match away from the NWSL Championship. Up next for the Current is a road tilt against #1 OL Reign Sunday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. CT at Lumen Field. The match is broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network and locally on ESPN Kansas City 1510 AM, 94.5 FM.  

In its first-ever playoff appearance, the Current advanced to the semifinal round on a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dash Sunday. A goal from defender Kate Del Fava in the 100th minute proved decisive as the club picked up its first playoff victory in franchise history. 

Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a penalty kick after forward Kristen Hamilton drew a foul in the penalty area. The Dash promptly responded in the 21st minute with a left-footed strike from midfielder Sophie Schmidt to tie the match at 1-1. Neither side could quite break the deadlock from there, and Current goalkeeper AD Franch made multiple crucial saves when Houston generated scoring opportunities.  

Then, late in second-half stoppage time, the Current won the ball in the Dash’s attacking third after defender Alex Loera picked off a Houston clearance attempt. She combined with LaBonta for a give-and-go on the left side of the penalty area, then Loera slid a pass to a waiting Del Fava right in front of goal. Del Fava directed the ball to the far corner of the net, giving Kansas City a historic win, while also recording her first career NWSL goal in the process.  

OL Reign was idle last weekend after receiving a first-round bye. Head coach Laura Harvey’s squad earned a bye and the No. 1 seed in the NWSL Playoffs after closing the season on a seven-match unbeaten streak in league play. OL Reign enters the postseason on a three-match winning streak in which the team shut out all three of its opponents. OL Reign has not allowed a goal since the first half of its 2-1 victory over the North Carolina Courage on Sept. 17. 

GOALKEEPER WARS 
Sunday’s high-stakes clash could ultimately come down to the squad with the soundest defense and goalkeeping, as both regular-season matches between the Current and Reign ended with each side recording a 1-0 victory.  

Goals could be at a premium given the caliber of both Franch and OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce, who are both nominated for the 2022 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year award. Franch recorded 70 saves in the regular season to Tullis-Joyce's 65, but Tullis-Joyce finished the regular season with nine shutouts, which tied for a league-best mark.  

As Tullis-Joyce's shutout numbers would indicate, OL Reign possesses an incredibly stingy defense. The Reign’s 19 goals allowed are the fewest in the NWSL, and the team has allowed multiple goals on just six occasions. However, Kansas City enters Sunday’s match in a similarly good run of defensive form. The Current has denied its opponents from scoring multiple goals in five of its last six matches, including two shutout wins. 

In addition, the Current are comfortable generating scoring opportunities against OL Reign’s defense. The last regular season matchup between the two sides, a 1-0 Current victory at Children’s Mercy Park July 17, featured 36 combined shots and nine total shots on target. Kansas City finished the match with 17 total shots and five shots on target.  

HISTORY IN HOUSTON  
Aside from Del Fava recording the first goal of her professional career and the Current recording its first-ever playoff victory Sunday, the team achieved several other notable milestones.  

Del Fava’s goal in the 100th minute of action marked the latest regulation time goal ever scored in NWSL history, which includes the regular season, Challenge Cup and postseason. The goal handed Kansas City the victory in its playoff debut, and the Current became the first team to win its playoff debut since the Seattle Reign did so in 2014. Kansas City head coach Matt Potter became the first head coach to win an NWSL playoff game in his first NWSL season since 2013.  

Additionally, Sunday’s victory over Houston continued a notable trend for the Current this season. LaBonta scored her 10th goal for Kansas City in all competitions with her penalty kick against the Dash, and the team has not lost a match in which LaBonta has scored (9 wins, 1 draw). In fact, LaBonta scored the lone goal in Kansas City’s win over OL Reign in July.  

ROAD WARRIORS 
Another record-breaking crowd could await Kansas City for the second consecutive weekend, as OL Reign is making a push to break the NWSL record for the largest playoff crowd in league history. Houston originally snapped the record Sunday with 21,284 fans in attendance, though that mark was snapped by the San Diego Wave Sunday night. 

Regardless, Kansas City has been a solid squad on the road in 2022. During the team’s 13-match unbeaten streak, the Current racked up a five-match road winning streak, which tied for the longest road winning streak in NWSL history. The Current went 5-5-1 in regular season road matches and enter Sunday’s semifinal having already won a highly contested match in front of a record crowd.  

WATCH PARTY 
As the Current continues its first-ever NWSL playoff run Sunday, the team’s official watch party presented by Boulevard Brewing Co. returns for another match. This weekend, the club invites fans to KC Live! Block at Power & Light to watch Sunday’s historic match on the videoboard.  

In addition to the game, fans can purchase team gear from the Teal Mobile and enjoy a $3 Teal Rising Pilsner drink special from Johnny’s Tavern, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sunday's match kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT. 

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

PLAYERS TO WATCH 
Kansas City Current midfielder Desiree Scott
— Kansas City will receive a massive boost in the midfield Sunday, as the team will welcome back team captain and Canadian international Desiree Scott. Scott served a one-match suspension last weekend after getting sent off in the Current’s regular season finale Oct. 1. Scott’s steady presence in the middle of the park cannot be understated. Her 34 tackles won are a team high and the ninth-best mark in the NWSL. The veteran midfielder leads the team with an 80.6% passing accuracy  

OL Reign forward Bethany Balcer — Balcer finished the regular season tied for the team lead in goals with seven and enters the postseason in a run of good form. She scored goals in each of OL Reign’s last two regular season matches, including the game-winning goal in Reign’s 2-0 victory over the Houston Dash on Sept. 24. Balcer also scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute when Kansas City and OL Reign first met in Seattle May 25 and has three career goals versus Kansas City.  

MATCH INFO  
OL Reign vs. Kansas City Current 
Sunday, October 23 at 6:30 p.m. CT  
Lumen Field – Seattle, Washington 
Radio on ESPN Kansas City 1510 AM, 94.5 FM 
Watch on CBS Sports Network 

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