KC Current fall to North Carolina Courage to open 2023 NWSL season: recap

Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Current started their 2023 campaign with a loss in North Carolina. Mille Gejl scored the lone goal of the match as the Current fell 1-0 to the Courage.

The Current had nine players on the injury report heading into the match, missing their new signings of Hanna Glas, Debinha, Vanessa DiBernardo, and Morgan Gautrat, as well as veteran Kristen Hamilton. The Current started three rookies on Saturday and trotted out a new formation, utilizing a back four.

“We were more concerned about putting the players in a position with their qualities to express themselves,” Current coach Matt Potter said.

The formation didn’t work, and for the first 10 minutes they seemed overrun by the high press of the Courage. The Courage had nearly 60% of the possession and fired 11 shots toward the Current goal, with five testing Adrianna Franch.

“We didn’t get off to the brightest start in terms of our quality in possession or our desire to get on the board, but we still created little half-chances here and there,” Potter said.

Courage forward Kerolin was a handful for the Current defense in the first half. Part of her impact was the space she had to operate in. With Current defender Hailie Mace playing on Kerolin’s side, Mace’s penchant for playing higher up on the field put the Current in a tricky position defensively — with two center backs instead of three.

“I don’t like it as much because I don’t feel I have as much freedom to get up and down the field,” Mace said. “But I think we’ve just got to adapt to the new formation and figure out how to break teams down with that.

“It’ll take a little bit, but we have time.”

Gejl’s shot from far out broke the deadlock in the 24th minute. It was the Current’s attention to Kerolin that allowed Gejl space to fire her shot toward the net. It was a low and powerful effort from Gejl that Franch could not get to.

One bright spot for the Current was the play of second-overall draft pick Michelle Cooper, who made her first start in her first possible match.

“I think it was super exciting once I found out I was gonna start, and I wish the result went our way,” Cooper said.

Potter felt that the Courage had devised an excellent plan to limit the rookie’s involvement and praised her for finding ways to influence the game differently.

“We’ve got to allow her the time to adjust to the league and how things are much quicker or spaces are that much smaller,” Potter said. “The most important thing is that she’s got that game under her belt, and now she can grow from there.”

The Current may see their injury situation worsen as Elizabeth Ball went off late after an injury she sustained to her hamstring, according to Potter. The severity of it is unknown.

The Current will return to action next week in their home opener against the Portland Thorns. That match, on Saturday, April 1, will kick off from Children’s Mercy Park at 11:50 am Central.