The Kansas City Current (3-1-0, 9 pts.) defeated the Houston Dash (1-3-0, 3 pts.) tonight in front of 11,014 fans, the largest Kansas City home crowd in UKG NWSL Challenge Cup history, at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday. In a record-setting night, midfielder Jenna Winebrenner (2) and forward Michelle Cooper recorded their first career assists and forward Kristen Hamilton scored the first hat trick in club history, which was all the team needed to secure the 3-1 victory.
“I’m very proud of the team’s performance,” said interim head coach Caroline Sjöblom. “The way we handled the game. Houston scored a really nice goal, but we could like dig up from there and bring the energy back to the pitch and just walk away from this game with big numbers like 3-1, so I’m really proud of the team tonight.”
The first half was bookended by strong pressure and quality play from the Current as they spent the majority of the first 15 minutes of play in Houston’s end, recording three quick shots in that span and recording over 60% of the early possession. However, against the run of play, Houston found the first goal of the match. With a counterattack, Dash forward Madelyn Desiano dribbled across the top of the box and found the right corner of the goal for the 1-0 early lead.
In the 30th minute, Houston goalkeeper Emily Alvarado was forced out of the game with an injury to her leg, which brought former U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Jane Campbell into the match. Immediately, the Current dialed up the attack and forced the Dash deep into their own end to defend.
As the clock for the opening half wound down, Hamilton stepped up the pressure even more. Only a few seconds into added time, Cooper brought the ball up the right side of the field. As she turned her attack in towards goal, she had multiple teammates open in the middle of the penalty box and laid a ball across that Winebrenner tipped to Hamilton for an open shot on the goal.
Only three minutes later, Winebrenner jumped on a loose ball in Kansas City’s end of the field and dribbled down the center of the field in open space. As the Houston defense started to gravitate to her, the second-year player played an easy pass to her right where Hamilton was open. The veteran forward dribbled straight in on Campbell then lifted her shot over the diving goalkeeper to give Kansas City the lead at halftime.
In the second half Kansas City once again chose to play on the front foot, holding possession for well over half the period. The Current had 224 passes, with nearly 60% of those being in Houston’s end of the field.
“It has been a big thing we’ve been talking about and practicing, to keep circulating the ball,” said Sjöblom. “When the opponent is kicking it out, have good positions with the defensive line so we can win it back and keep the pressure and today the players handled it really well.”
In the 68th minute, the Current won a throw-in deep in Houston territory. With her back to goal, Cooper received the throw and turned towards the goal line ready to drive towards the goalkeeper. However, rather than make that push she sent a perfectly driven pass to the penalty spot where Hamilton was wide open and easily found the net for the third time on the night.
Hamilton’s three scores give her 10 career scores in the Challenge Cup. She is only the second player to ever reach double-digits in tournament play, with her teammate Debinha (12) reaching the mark last season. Her hat trick was also the first in Kansas City Current club history and the first one ever scored in Challenge Cup play.
Kansas City will hit the road for the second of three straight tournament matches, this time heading to SeatGeek Stadium to play the Chicago Red Stars July 29 at 7 p.m. CT. The team will return to Children’s Mercy Park August 5 at 7 p.m. CT to close out Challenge Cup group play against Racing Louisville. Single match tickets are available for all remaining home matches at Children’s Mercy Park. For pricing and information, visit kansascitycurrent.com.
Referee Pool Reporter Question – Why were the Current not permitted to make the substitution to bring on number 14 for 25?
A: Kansas City Current were unable to complete the substitution #14 Chardonnay Curran for #25 Kristen Hamilton due to the fact that all substitute moments had been completed. In the 73rd minute of the match during the concussion substitute, a normal substitute was made. Per IFAB, “if a team makes a “normal” substitution at the same time as a “concussion substitute,” this will count as one of its “normal” substitution opportunities.”
NWSL Match Report
Match: Kansas City Current vs Houston Dash
Date: July 22, 2023
Venue: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas
Kickoff: 7:13 p.m. CT
Weather: 85 degrees, partly cloudy
35’ KC – Cooper (Yellow)
58’ HOU – Salmon (Yellow)
90’+ 4 HOU – Harris (Yellow)
17’ HOU Desiano (Sánchez)
45’+1 KC Hamilton (Winebrenner)
45’+4 KC Hamilton (Winebrenner)
68’ KC Hamilton (Cooper)
Kansas City Current Lineup: Franch, Rodriguez, Robinson, Ball, Del Fava (86’ Merrick), Gautrat (74’ Childers), Kizer, Winebrenner (59’ Loera), Spaanstra, Hamilton ©, Cooper (74’ Larsson)
Unused Substitutes: Curran, Soto, Silkowitz, Miller
Houston Dash Lineup: Alvarado (30’ Campbell), Jacobs (90’+3 Harris), Prisock, Lind ©, Dydasco, Peterson, Viggiano, Desiano (64’ Tucker), Sánchez, Salmon, Ordóñez (80’ Breslin)
Unused Substitutes: Olivieri, Gareis, Anderson