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The KC Current fall to Portland in the title match, even as they make history

KC Current Final Mace
Nick Wass
Associated Press
Portland Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith, left, looks at the ball next to Kansas City Current defender Addisyn Merrick, right, during the first half of the NWSL championship soccer match, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Washington.

The Kansas City Current’s incredible run to the NWSL title match came to a conclusion at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., Saturday night with a 2-0 loss against the Portland Thorns, who won their third championship in the league’s ten-year history.

The Current ended the year on a disappointing note, but they made history as the first No. 5 seed to make it to the title match and capped a steady climb throughout the season on the heels of a last-place finish in 2021, the Current’s first year in the NWSL.

While disappointed with the results of the game, Caity Hynson, a season ticket holder, said the Current still made strides this season.

KC Current Final Del Fava
Nick Wass
AP Photo
Kansas City Current defender Kate Del Fava, back, and forward Cece Kizer (5) embrace after the NWSL championship soccer match against the Portland Thorns FC, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Washington. Portland won 2-0.

“It’s just big that we’re in the championship,” Hynson said. “It’s been really exciting to see this journey – especially considering the fact that we lost our women’s team not too long ago. So to get one back and now to see them in the finals is pretty exciting.”

Portland’s Sophia Smith, the NWSL Most Valuable Player with 14 goals during the regular season, opened the scoring in the match with a goal in the fourth minute after a Kansas City turnover.

Smith was also named the game’s MVP. At 22, she became the youngest to score a goal in an NWSL title game and it turned out to be all the Thorns needed to win.

“Sophia Smith is showing again why she is an incredible talent and why we’re lucky to have her as part of the U.S. setup,” said Current manager Matt Potter afterward.

Kansas City had to feel fortunate the one-goal halftime deficit wasn’t larger. Portland, the most productive goal-scoring team in the NWSL this season, was in possession for 56 percent of the opening half’s duration and prevented any Kansas City shots on goal.

The Thorns cushioned their lead on an own-goal charged against Current defender Addisyn Merrick in the 56th minute.

Kansas City has yet to beat Portland in seven matches, but had hopes of breaking through with a title-game win after playing to a 1-1 draw in their last meeting on Sept. 18.

The Current also made their improbable run without Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis, a pair of high-profile acquisitions who spent the year rehabilitating from season-ending injuries but are expected to be back on the pitch next year.

Briana Bondon left the watch party at Union Station with her sights set on next year. Bondon believes the Current will continue to grow.

“I think they just learn from this game and say ‘this is where we ended up this year’ and for next season know where they need to go and what they need to learn,” she said.

An illluminated block letter sign reads 'We (heart symbol) KC Current' with a soccer ball at the end. The word current is lit blue, the heart is lit red, and the remaining words are lit up in white. The sign is in front of a building which has a red neon sign reading 'Union Station' on the side.
Savannah Hawley
KCUR 89.3
The Current's official watch party for the title was held at Union Station. While the Current lost, they made history as the first No. 5 seed to make it to the title match.

Excited for women’s soccer

With or without a championship, the Kansas City Current has left an indelible impact on the city. Shay Kirkendall said they loved watching new and old soccer fans alike embrace the women’s team.

“It's huge for me,” Kirkendall said. “I grew up playing soccer and I love supporting and seeing all the young people that are so inspired. It's just really cool to see and be part of.”

Christi Delaroy, a season ticket holder for the Current, has a two-year-old daughter. Though not old enough to play soccer, Delaroy said she’s happy her daughter will grow up with a women’s team.

“Knowing that my daughter will be able to grow up in a world that women's professional sports is the norm – I want to tear up."
Christi Delaroy, season ticket holder

“We were watching the hype videos for the Current earlier and I said to (my friends) like, ‘I've never seen this with women as the stars.’ I just hope that when my daughter is our age that it won't be weird that we'll have women's professional sports.”

A crowd of fans wearing teal and red stand behind a silver waist-high gate with a gap in the middle. Their faces are turned upward as they watch the game.
Savannah Hawley
KCUR 89.3
KC Current fans eagerly watch the first half of the championship match. The KC Current lost to the Portland Thorns 2-0.

As the crowd anxiously watched the game, Jesse Duncan said win or lose, it’s exciting to see the crowds come together to support a women’s team.

“We've been going to all the games throughout the year and we're really excited that the women's soccer team is getting a lot of traction,” Duncan said. “They're really good this year and we want celebrate women's sports and be part of the hype.”

After watching the Current’s history-making run to the title, fans are certain the team will only continue to grow.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
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