After an action-packed end of July both on and off the field, a new-look Kansas City NWSL opens August today against a familiar foe, the Portland Thorns in Oregon.
This is the third time head coach Huw Williams’ team is visiting Providence Park since the opening game of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. The two sides meet at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, at Providence Park in Oregon.
After an emotional week that saw Kansas City gain three players in a trade for former captain Amy Rodriguez, KC looked the better team for most of the match against the North Carolina Courage last Friday.
Kansas City held 55 percent possession, out-shot North Carolina 14-7 and had five shots on goal to North Carolina’s one.
Newly acquired forward Hailie Mace had one of the best chances of the match in the 86th minute as she broke through the left side of North Carolina’s back line, but Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy deflected Mace’s effort just wide.
In her first career start, Kansas City goalkeeper Carly Nelson earned her first NWSL shutout, and the match ended 0-0
Portland is riding a four-match unbeaten streak entering Sunday’s showdown. Last Saturday against the Houston Dash, Portland forward Sophia Smith scored after just 32 seconds of play. Smith’s finish was all the Thorns needed to see out a 1-0 win, putting Portland on top of the NWSL table.
KC looking to build on best stretch yet
Friday’s draw signified an important milestone for Kansas City NWSL, marking the first point Kansas City earned at Legends Field in all NWSL competitions this season. The result was an extremely positive one for the hosts given that Kansas City had eight players out with injury or illness against North Carolina.
Kansas City has now taken two points from its last three matches, with a 2-0 loss to OL Reign sandwiched in between draws with NJ-NY Gotham FC and North Carolina. It’s tied for the most points Kansas City has earned from a three-game stretch this season, as the team opened the regular season with ties against Racing Louisville FC and the Houston Dash before falling to the Chicago Red Stars.
Portland’s impressive defense
The Thorns enter Sunday’s match as one of the best defenses in the league, having given up just seven goals in 10 matches. That mark is second in the NWSL, one behind NJ-NY Gotham FC’s total of six.
Over Portland’s last eight matches the team has conceded just three goals with six shutouts, including a 1-0 shutout of Kansas City on June 20. Three goals conceded in eight games broke the Portland Thorns’ club record for the fewest goals allowed in an eight-game span of a single regular season.
Kansas City managed to score on Portland when the two sides met in the 2021 Challenge Cup and was perhaps unlucky not to when the two teams met in June. Kansas City had 18 shots and five shots on goal against the Thorns when the two teams met in the regular season, but ultimately couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.
Players to watch
Kansas City NWSL: Forward Kristen Hamilton — Hamilton made her Kansas City NWSL debut against North Carolina. She flashed her creativity and quick, dynamic play style against the Courage, totaling three total shots and one shot on goal.
It was an impressive performance especially given how unfamiliar Hamilton was with her Kansas City teammates entering last Friday’s match, and she did not look out of place in KC’s attack. As Hamilton becomes more familiar with the team’s style of play, expect her to play a significant role in Kansas City for the rest of the season.
Portland Thorns: Defender Meghan Klingenberg — The 32-year-old defender and 2015 World Cup Champion is one of the centerpieces of Portland’s vaunted defense. Klingenberg has played in all 11 of Portland’s regular season games at outside back and starting in 10. She has been excellent in defense, with 19 clearances and 18 interceptions. In addition, Klingenberg is more than capable of getting forward. She has recorded 10 successful crosses, 29 key passes and, most importantly, has two assists to her name. Klingenberg has very rarely played the full 90 minutes this season, but look for her to be heavily involved while she’s on the field both defensively and offensively.
August to be KC’s busiest month
August is Kansas City’s busiest month to date, with the match against Portland marking the first of six games this month. Kansas City’s previous mark for most games in a month was five, with the final game of the NWSL Challenge Cup and the first four games of the regular season occurring in May. Kansas City will be on the road for most of the month as well, with four of Kansas City’s six games in August taking place on the road.
Following Sunday’s match with Portland, Kansas City is on the road yet again in a showdown with fellow NWSL expansion team Racing Louisville FC on Sunday, Aug. 8.
Kansas City’s first August home match comes on Saturday, Aug. 14, against a surging OL Reign side, then Kansas City visits North Carolina on Saturday, Aug. 21, for the second meeting with the Courage in a one-month span.
A home match against Racing Louisville FC on Wednesday, Aug. 25, and a road match against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, Aug. 28, closes what looks to be a busy month for Kansas City NWSL.
Fans have a variety of ways to follow along with Sunday’s match. Locally, Aly Trost and Dave Borchardt will be hosts for the match on KCTV5 and Sports Radio 810 WHB. Nationally, the match will broadcast live on Paramount+.
- Story from KC NWSL