KC Current will play without head coach, 4 players on Saturday after COVID-19 outbreak

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The COVID-19 pandemic is still going on for the Kansas City Current.

As they prepare for Saturday night’s matchup with National Women’s Soccer League expansion team Angel City FC in Los Angeles, they do so without head coach Matt Potter, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Potter is one of multiple people within the organization who tested positive. The list includes other members of the coaching staff and at least four unnamed players. As of late Friday afternoon, the club was still awaiting test results to determine whether any additional players would be forced to miss the game.

Goalkeepers coach Lloyd Yaxley will fill in for Potter on the Current’s sidelines as the team’s acting manager for the game in L.A. Yaxley spent the previous five seasons as the goalkeepers coach for the Orlando Pride and has never been a head coach in the league.

“Personally, it’s really humbling that Matt has put his trust in me to be the voice for the team,” Yaxley told The Star on Friday. “I think it’s something that I’m ready for and I’m capable of doing.”

Yaxley said that Potter has been able to remain in communication with the players and staff through video meetings but remains physically isolated. The team kept to its planned practice and travel schedule, though that hasn’t made the situation any less uncomfortable.

“Any time COVID-19 pops up, there’s stress involved, especially with individuals missing the trip,” Yaxley said. “But I think all of that kind of gets put to the side once training starts or once the game starts. Once they cross that line, the players have been really focused.”

The NWSL recently announced a policy aimed at helping alleviate the potential roster issues that positive cases can (and often do) create. Clubs are allowed to sign COVID-19 replacement players while permanent players are forced to miss games under the NWSL Health and Safety Protocols. According to a club source, the Current anticipated exercising that option ahead of Saturday night’s match.

The Current are not the only NWSL team experiencing positive COVID-19 cases in recent days. Last weekend, Gotham FC of New York and the North Carolina Courage had their match called off just two hours prior to kickoff. The Courage had seven players listed as out through the Health and Safety Protocols, and Gotham had four.

Elsewhere around the American soccer landscape, multiple USL matches have been called off, with San Antonio and Colorado Springs canceling this weekend’s match on Friday morning.

The Current are coming off a rousing comeback that ended in a tie against the Houston Dash. A dubious late penalty-kick call meant the match ended in a draw. And now the Current are traveling to Southern California for their second of three straight road matches.

Angel City is led on the field by U.S. Women’s National Team star Christen Press and Jun Endo, who plays for Japan. One of their teammates, Ali Riley, has captained the New Zealand women’s national team.

Even without Potter calling the shots on Saturday, the Current will be in L.A. hungry for their first NWSL regular-season victory. Saturday night’s match kicks off at 9:30 pm Central Time at Banc of California Stadium, airing live on Paramount+.

“There’s going to be moments where we have to make sure that we are not isolated 1-v-1 with your Christen Pressess and June Endos, because they are very gifted players,” Yaxley said. “(We have to) make sure that in those matchups we can overload and make it two versus one or ‘numbers up’ in those situations, rather than ‘numbers even’ or ‘numbers down.’”