KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Current have several decisions to make this offseason.
The Current have a few key free agents and a coaching search at the top of their list to begin the offseason before they open KC Current Stadium at the beginning of the 2024 season.
Coming into 2023, the Current had high expectations coming in.
2022 saw the club’s second year ride a wave to the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal and to the NWSL Championship where they fell to the Portland Thorns.
Then in the offseason, they signed several key free agents, like world-renowned striker Debinha, midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo and Swedish national defender Hanna Glas, along with trading up in the NWSL draft for first-round pick striker Michelle Cooper (even though they lost USA women’s national team striker Lynn Williams in the process) along with drafting first round forward Alexa Spaanstra.
But the injury bug hit early.
U.S. Women’s National Team member Sam Mewis used 2023 to recover from a right knee injury and hasn’t played since 2021. French forward Claire Lavogez was recovering from a right knee injury suffered late in the 2022 season.
Defenders Canadian national Desi Scott and Swedish national Hanna Glas missed the season recovering from knee injuries, while midfielder former USAWNT member Morgan Gautrat played six matches in June and July before returning to the sidelines with a concussion.
With three losses to begin the season, the Current parted ways with head coach Matt Potter citing, “issues around his leadership and employment responsibilities” hours before a Challenge Cup match with the Houston Dash, which they won.
The Current were also accused of mistreatment by a rookie player who left the team as well.
Assistant coach Caroline Sjöblom took the reins as interim HC and led the Current to an 8-2-12 record, good for an 11th-place finish and another Challenge Cup semifinal.
The Current have five free agents headlined by 36-year-old Scott who is an unrestricted free agent.
- Defender Addisyn Merrick (restricted)
- Midfielder Sam Mewis (unrestricted)
- Goalkeeper Cassie Miller (restricted)
- Defender Mallory Weber (unrestricted)
For a team that had an unexpected season all around, they still take away some bright spots from throughout the year.
“I think I need to write a book about that now,” Sjöblom said after the Current’s draw with NJ/NY Gotham FC on Sunday.
“I think we were in a really tough situation when I took over. I think it was almost 14, 15 injured at the time, and we didn’t have depth. We struggled with having all but six players to play in the midfield, and we also struggled with the defense line.”
“But I think it’s been a journey, it’s been a tough journey, it’s been a roller coaster. It’s been a lot of frustration. But besides that, I think we play fantastic soccer right now. I think we play an attractive soccer, something that I stand for and what I believe in. It’s how I’ve been coaching through my whole career that I want to have a possession-based style that is attractive for fans to come and watch.”
For Spaanstra, she scored two goals in the last two games of the season. Her rookie season may not have panned out how she wanted, but she has shown the talent to be a key piece for the club moving forward.
“Just getting to Kansas City, seeing all the amazing facilities and just meeting all the team,” she said on Sunday. “Getting to train with them. I think that they really pushed me this season just to evolve and grow my game because I still have a lot of things to work on as well, but I think they push me every single day.
“Just getting any minutes that I can helping the team out in any way and just closing off the season with really positive games and goals.”
Defender Alex Loera injured her foot early in the season in April and returned to the pitch three months later in June, helping the Current to only four losses in her 11 matches back.
The toughest battle for her this season was the mental battle of her first significant time of being off the pitch while recovering from injury.
“That’s just something that we struggle with this season,” Loera said about injuries affecting the team as a whole. “But then also just finding the joy and being able to play. I think not taking it for granted that we do get to come out and play every day. I think that’s something that we’ve been focusing on.
“Just finding the joy and when we’re playing. I think that kind of came alive towards the end of the season when we did start to see everyone healthy and just building those connections.”
As the offseason process begins for the club, finding a head coach is at the top of the list, along with finishing the build on the first stadium ever built for women’s soccer.
While some may see KC point to former USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has deep ties in the area and led FC Kansas City to two titles, the Current have a candidate that’s been in the position auditioning all season.
“I think I’ve proven to people in this league I can be in charge of a team in the NWSL,” Sjöblom said. “If they want to have a certain style of play, then I think I’m the right person, and I also prove to myself that I can now know the culture and the style of play that other teams have because that was why I wanted to come into this league as an assistant coach.”
“I think our team has really enjoyed her leadership,” Loera said about Sjöblom. “It’s a different leadership than we’ve seen in the past, but it’s always good to have new.”
“I think we’re very grateful to have her here, and if the interim comes off with that, then I think we’re happy to have her and then to continue having her. We’re just excited for what the future holds.”
“I think that she did a really good job of just making us feel comfortable listening to what we want and want to be as a team,” Spaanstra said.
“I think the coaches around her as well did a really good job of stepping up and really helped dictate like what we want to be, our identity, how we want to play the game.
“So I give a lot of credit to them, and I really appreciate everything that they did.”
As the Current sit back and watch the NWSL playoffs, the front office will be preparing for which players to acquire in free agency and the NWSL Draft and which players to leave on the board to be picked in the 2024 NWSL Expansion Draft where Bay FC and the Utah Royals will be beginning their inaugural year in the league.
And history will be made at the Current’s home opener when they open KC Current Stadium to set a new precedent in women’s world soccer.