Advertisement

KC Current hold off Portland for a 5-4 victory in their new stadium

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vanessa DiBernardo scored the first goal for Kansas City in its new stadium and the Current held off the Portland Thorns 5-4 on Saturday in the regular-season opener for the National Women's Soccer League.

Debinha's rebound shot deflected off Thorns goalkeeper Shelby Hogan and fell to DiBernardo, who scored in the 22nd minute. Rookie Ellie Wheeler scored moments later and the Current built a 3-1 lead by halftime.

Bia Zaneratto, Kristen Hamilton and Alex Pfeiffer added goals for the Current. Sophia Smith and Janine Beckie each had a pair of goals for the Thorns.

The Current were hurt in the 32nd minute when Debinha, a finalist for last year's league MVP award, left the game with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

It was the first game at CPKC Stadium, which the team says is the first U.S. stadium built expressly for women’s pro soccer. The privately financed $120 million facility sits on the banks of the Missouri River and seats 11,500.

“I think what this club is doing and setting the standard, and building this stadium, and people showing up and supporting it, and just women’s soccer growing in general, I think it’s just super special," DiBernardo said. “Where we started with this league and where we are now, it just shows the growth and how much players have put into it and really pushed the standard, and how much we’ve kind of really had to fight for ourselves. And it’s just the start.”

Saturday's game was a sellout. It also was the first NWSL game broadcast on ABC as part of the league's new media rights deal. The NWSL inked a new broadcast deal worth $60 million annually that will feature the league’s matches on ESPN networks, CBS Sports, Amazon Prime Video and Scripps Sports.

Zaneratto, who has played in four Women’s World Cups for Brazil and was signed by the Current earlier this season, scored before Smith made it 3-1 in the 43rd minute.

Hamilton and Pfeiffer added second-half goals to extend the Current's lead to 5-1. But Portland rallied with Beckie's goal in the 71st minute and Smith's second in the 74th. Beckie's second came in stoppage time.

The Current won their first game under Vlatko Andonovski, the former U.S. national team coach, who also coached at FC Kansas City, one of the league’s founding teams that played from 2013 to 2017.

Andonovski also coached two seasons with the Reign before taking over the U.S. national team. He parted ways with the team following the U.S. exit at the Women's World Cup last year.

Brittany and Patrick Mahomes, part of the Current's ownership group, kicked off the game with a “K.C., baby!” chant.

Also on Saturday, the expansion Royals drew a sellout crowd to their opener in Sandy, Utah, but fell 2-0 to the Chicago Red Stars. Allison Schlegel scored in the 50th minute and Ava Cook added another in the 77th.

The announced crowd of 20,370 was the largest ever for a women's soccer match in the state.

It is the second iteration of the Royals: The team was first founded in 2017 when FC Kansas City ceased operations. That Royals team folded in 2020 amid an ownership scandal. The new owners of the Royals’ MLS partner, Real Salt Lake, were dedicated to revive the women's team and NWSL granted them an expansion team last year.

Racing Louisville and the Orlando Pride played to a 2-2 draw in Kentucky. Elexa Bahr scored in the 13th minute for Racing and Uchenna Kanu added a second goal six minutes later.

Elli Pikkujamsa's own goal in the 24th narrowed the gap for the Pride to 2-1 before halftime. Summer Yates had the equalizing goal in the 86th, despite the Pride playing down a player after Kylie Strom was sent off with a second yellow card in the 62nd minute.

In Cary, North Carolina, Bianca St. Georges scored two goals in a 5-1 Courage rout of the Houston Dash.

Malia Berkely converted a penalty kick in the 19th minute. After Haley Hopkins' goal early in the second half, St. Georges scored in the 77th and 86th. Dani Weatherholt added the final Courage goal in stoppage time.

The Dash avoided the shutout because of an own goal in the 65th.

___

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer