by Brian Turrel
The Kansas City Current secured a place in the Challenge Cup semifinals with Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars at Children’s Mercy Park.
Kristen Hamilton scored the game winner in the 76th minute by knocking in a cross from Elyse Bennett from close range. The goal was Hamilton’s fourth in the six tournament games and earned Bennett her fourth assist.
The two teams traded goals early in the second half to set the stage for the go-ahead goal. Kansas City struck first in the 50th minute, starting with Desiree Scott intercepting a Chicago pass near midfield.
Scott passed to Elyse Bennett 18 yards out on the left side, and Bennett played the ball back to rookie Alex Loera running up the middle. Loera connected with the pass from 25 yards out, and her first touch launched the ball into the upper right corner of the net, well out of reach of Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
After the match, Loera talked about her decision to take the shot from such a range. “She just laid off a perfect one-touch pass,” said the rookie defender.
“I was like I mean I’m right here, no one’s on me. I’m just going to shoot it. And I don’t know, I think I kind of blacked out because I don’t really remember it.”
Before the celebration had died down, Chicago got its equalizer, with Bianca St. Georges scoring off a cross from Ella Stevens.
Reserve goalkeeper Cassie Miller started and kept the Current even in the match with a 60th minute save, and Kristen Edmonds also kept the Red Stars off the board by heading away a corner kick at the goal line in the 70th minute.
After the match, head coach Matt Potter praised the contributions rookies Bennett and Loera have made in the absence of veteran players Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams.
“They’ve certainly proven on this stage that they belong,” Potter said. “We still believe their best days are ahead of them, but they’re certainly making an impact and doing the job they need to do while other players are working their way back.”
Kansas City’s Challenge Cup division-leading finish gives the team the opportunity to play host to the semifinal match against the North Carolina Courage on May 4, but first the Current will play the regular season opener on the road against the Portland Thorns on April 30.