A late stoppage time goal from the North Carolina Courage ended the Kansas City Current’s run in the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup. After winning the Central Division, the Current exits the tournament in the semifinals.
“It was a tough loss today, just one and half minutes from a PK shoot out,” said interim head coach Caroline Sjoblom. “I said that I am proud of them and that they worked extremely hard. We talked about discipline before the game. We had discipline and everyone covered for each other, and we didn’t allow them to have a lot of dangerous situations in our penalty box.”
Kansas City handled an extremely high-pressure attack from the Courage throughout the first half, facing five shots with two on target from the visitors. One of the biggest opportunities for the visitors came in the 14th minute, when midfielder Manaka Matsukubo found herself open at the edge of the penalty box. Her shot sent goalkeeper AD Franch diving to her left, and the ball rolled wide.
Just minutes before halftime, North Carolina forward Tess Boade poked a ball through to find Kerolin charging past the Kansas City defense. The Brazilian forward laid off a shot that was easily collected by Franch.
The Current were on the front foot throughout the second half. In the 57th minute, defender Hailie Mace jumped on a poor clearance from the North Carolina defense and cut around two players before hitting a rocket toward the top of goal. Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy leapt up to make the save.
Seconds later, a long ball found rookie Alexa Spaanstra charging down the left side of the pitch. After weaving through the Courage defense, the forward sent a curling ball toward the far post, forcing an incredible diving save from Murphy.
Spaanstra nearly had another chance in the 59th minute. Again, the rookie dribbled past two defenders, but instead of choosing to shoot, she smoothly slid the ball across the pitch to find forward Michelle Cooper on the right-hand side. Cooper hit the shot, which just sailed over the bar.
In the 78th minute, North Carolina defender Emily Fox jumped on a clearance out of the box to launch a shot toward goal. Franch’s quick reflexes saved the day, as she darted to her left to grab the ball.
Four minutes later, the Current nearly had the go-ahead goal after a corner kick. Defender Kate Del Fava was first to get a head on the ball, but Murphy punched it away. Cooper jumped on the rebound, but her shot was saved off the line by a Courage player, before being cleared out of danger.
The visitors finally found the winning goal in the 6th minute of stoppage time. A long throw in for the Courage led to a scramble in the box. Courage midfielder Brianna Pinto jumped on the loose ball and sent it toward the far post, past a diving AD Franch.
Next, the Kansas City Current returns to regular season action and hits the road to visit the San Diego Wave on September 16. The final home match of the regular season will take place on October 7 at Children’s Mercy Park. For ticket pricing and information, visit kansascitycurrent.com.
UKG NWSL Challenge Cup Match Report
Match: Kansas City Current vs. North Carolina Courage
Date: September 6, 2023
Venue: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS
Kickoff: 7:06 p.m. CT
Weather: 78 degrees, sunny
38’ North Carolina – Kurtz (Yellow)
51’ North Carolina – Miura (Yellow)
78’ North Carolina – Boade (Yellow)
84’ North Carolina – Pinto (Yellow)
90+5’ North Carolina – Pinto
Kansas City Current Lineup: Franch, Rodriguez (90+4’ Ballisager), Robinson, Ball, Mace (90+4’ Larsson), LaBonta, Loera (55’ Kizer), Debinha, Spaanstra (81’ Lavogez), Hamilton © (81’ Del Fava), Cooper
Unused Substitutes: Miller, Winebrenner, Merrick, Lauren
North Carolina Courage Lineup: Murphy, Fox, Berkely, Kurtz, Williams, Miura, O’Sullivan ©, Lussi (71’ Hopkins), Matsukubo (72’ Pinto), Kerolin (90+7’ Madsen), Boade (82’ Gejl)
Unused Substitutes: Bova, Ratcliffe, Tagliaferri, Wingate, K. Pickett