The urge is to regard Kansas City as the most disrespectful club in the NWSL.
For the second week, the postseason newcomers strutted onto an opponent’s turf surrounded by a record crowd and utilized an early goal to end the festive vibe before it could get started. OL Reign were the casualty Sunday, getting shut out 2-0 by the Current in a semifinal match at Lumen Field.
But as most of the 21,491 people in attendance began to file out of the stadium, Reign coach Laura Harvey gathered her players and staff in a massive huddle to deliver a harsh truth.
“We’re a very honest group with each other and I was honest with them to say that I truly believed that over the course of the season, we deserved to get close to that championship,” Harvey said. “On tonight’s performance, we didn’t show quality when we needed it.”
Kansas City has bounced the Reign from the postseason three times, although the past two in 2014 and 2015 were when the side was FC Kansas City and under different ownership. Those matches were also for the NWSL championship.
Now in their second season with their new ownership group, the Current will play the Portland Thorns for the NWSL title on Saturday at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn subbed on in the 62nd minute and sent the game winner into goal in second-half stoppage time for a 2-1 result against the San Diego Wave in Sunday’s other semifinal match.
“It’s hard to believe I gave birth five months ago,” Dunn told the CBS Sports broadcast after the win. “My team was so supportive and they’re a big reason why I’m able to get back onto the pitch and play this game and be available for this moment.”
Portland is a two-time league champ (2013 and 2017). This is its first appearance in the title match since 2018.
The Reign haven’t won a playoff game since 2018. There was a strong belief this would be the season the stretch of four semifinal losses would be snapped because of the depth on the Reign’s roster.
The club was presented with their third NWSL Shield during a pregame ceremony, sealing the honor before a then stand-alone record attendance of 10,746 people for a regular-season finale win against Orlando three weeks ago. Harvey, the league’s winningest coach, managed injuries, international call-ups and travel to help the Reign finish with the NWSL’s best defense and a balanced attack.
It all dissolved into nothingness Sunday.
Reign defender Lu Barnes had a poor pass that led to the visitors getting the opening goal. Teammates Jess Fishlock, Barnes, Sam Hiatt and Quinn collapsed on the ball in the box, but it popped out before anyone could properly clear it. Current rookie Alex Loera seized the opportunity to bounce a shot past Reign keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce.
Loera’s goal in the fourth minute was the second time Kansas City scored within the opening minutes of a playoff game. The Current scored in the fifth minute of the 2-1 win against the Houston Dash to advance.
The Dash had a record crowd of 21,284 fans at PNC Stadium.
Current forward Kristen Hamilton had the insurance goal in the 63rd minute Sunday. She got Hiatt to spin the wrong direction to slot a low, right-footed shot into the net from inches outside the penalty box.
“In terms of playoff success, I don’t think it’s like a magic potion or anything that we just can’t figure out,” Reign forward Megan Rapinoe said. “We just didn’t put it together on the field. Kansas City is a really good team, really difficult to play against. They finished their chances and we didn’t.”
Too many Reign runs were left wanting in the match.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle had a header in the 19th minute that went over the goal. Rapinoe sent a cross for forward Jordyn Huitema to head into goal in the 31st minute, but Current keeper AD Franch was there for the save.
Fishlock had an attempt ping off the crossbar. And Rapinoe seemed to find a score in the 75th minute, but it was blocked at the goal line.
The Reign outshot the Current 16-8 overall, Franch collecting seven saves in the shutout.
“AD was off her head,” Rapinoe said in complimenting Franch, a two-time NWSL Keeper of the Year. “Football is a little cruel sometimes. I don’t even really know if we deserved more out of the game. We didn’t really take our chances and impose ourselves on the game. Obviously just very disappointing, tough one for us, especially playing the way that we’ve been playing and having the season that we’ve had.”
Harvey made one change from the last outing against the Pride. She returned defender Sofia Huerta into the starting backline, moving Phoebe McClernon to the bench.
Current coach Matt Potter was able to call on midfielder Desiree Scott, who missed the season finale due to a red-card suspension.
“The journey has been a really exciting one this year,” Harvey said. “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t quite get to the promised land.”