Who: Kansas City Current (0-4-1) hosts Racing Louisville (2-1-2)
When: Monday, May 30, at 3 PM ET
Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas / Live on Paramount+
For the first time ever, Racing Louisville is on a winning streak. They won back-to-back matches against the San Diego Wave and NJ/NY Gotham FC last week and now they look to continue their winning ways when they head to Kansas City on Memorial Day. Racing is undefeated in their last four matches (2W, 2D) making this the young team’s longest undefeated streak.
When asked about their recent success, midfielder Savannah DeMelo said it’s been a whole team effort. “I just think collectively we’ve all been doing our role and people coming off the bench have been making a difference.”
DeMelo also praised goalkeeper Katie Lund who has managed two consecutive shutouts for the first time in her career. Lund also currently has the highest goals added (g+) rating of any keeper in the NWSL.
For her part, Lund gave credit to the defensive line who held it together despite dealing with massive lineup changes due to Covid protocols. “We had two completely different rotations come in,” said Lund, “and without them, I can’t make those saves or anything so a lot of credit goes to them.”
All Racing players were cleared from Covid protocols ahead of last Sunday’s Gotham match. On Friday morning, all participated fully in practice.
Now, Racing players prepare to travel to Kansas City for their Memorial Day match. The Current have become a familiar foe with Racing already playing them twice this year in the Challenge Cup. DeMelo said these past matchups have been helpful in learning what to expect from the team and said the team is confident they can do well.
Know Your Foe: Kansas City Current
If Racing is on an upswing during a four-game undefeated streak, the Kansas City Current is heading in the opposite direction. The Current hasn’t just lost four of their first five regular-season matches. They have been shut out of four as well. The Memorial Day match against Racing will be the tail-end of a ten-day, three-game road trip for the Current. They first drew the Pride 2-2 in Orlando before traveling to Los Angeles to lose to Angel City 0-1. On Wednesday, they traveled to Seattle and lost 0-1 to a late header to give OL Reign their first win of the season.
Just because they haven’t been getting good results doesn’t mean they should be written off, however. Some of Kansas City’s losses have been very close. In the case of the penalty for Orlando that earned a draw in stoppage time, they’ve also been controversial. As a result, they will be starving for a win. And they’ll be even hungrier for a win at home after a long, painful road trip. They’re likely going to come at Racing hard from the outset and Racing will need to try and keep Kansas City on their back foot and control the match as much as possible to wear them down.
Kansas City will also likely receive a boost from the return of Lo’eau LaBonta and Hailie Mace from Covid protocols. Both players were sorely missed against Angel City and OL Reign. If they’re back, they’ll undoubtedly add a big spark to the Current.
Searching For the Taste of the Win
Both Racing and the Current have played 5 games so far. In that time, Louisville has scored 6 goals while Kansas City has only scored 2. Both of Kansas City’s goals were in a single game against Orlando, so clearly, finishing and scoring are a major issue for them. With Racing earning two shutouts in their last matches against teams with the likes of Alex Morgan, Kristie Mewis, and Midge Purce on their rosters, they should feel pretty confident. But for a team with young players on their very first winning streak, do they run the risk of getting too confident?
Coach Kim Björkegren said they just need to focus on taking it “game by game.” Still, he said that they’d previously been “searching for the taste of the win” and now that they’ve had it, they can have confidence in themselves that they’d been lacking before.
“Before we were just talking about how the performance was good, but now the result is there as well,” said Björkegren. “It’s just going to help the team, I think.”
Racing is currently mostly healthy with only two players out. Emina Ekic is out again with a foot injury and Nadia Nadim still recovering from last season’s ACL tear. Nadim seems close to returning and participated in the full scrimmage Friday. However, she was still listed as out for the trip to Kansas City. Ekic did not participate in practice, so the severity of her injury is currently unknown. Although new addition Satara Murray is with the team and practicing, she is still not eligible to play for the squad due to missing the most recent transfer window. It is expected that she’ll be available immediately in June once the new transfer window opens. It’s likely she’ll be available for selection against the North Carolina Courage later in the week.