KC NWSL prepares to face OL Reign with both teams shorthanded because of Olympics

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Huw Williams admitted Thursday afternoon that he didn’t have too much trouble picking a travel squad ahead of Kansas City NWSL’s trip to play OL Reign on Sunday in Tacoma, Washington.

Unfortunately for Williams, KC’s head coach, the simplicity of the task isn’t in the fact that he has a dead-set core of starters and substitutes, but because he barely has a large enough team to pick from at the moment.

Because of Olympic call-ups, Kansas City will be without three starters in Katie Bowen (New Zealand), Desiree Scott (Canada), and Chloe Logarzo (Australia) for the month of July and potentially into August.

For Sunday’s game against the Reign (6 p.m. Central kickoff), KC also will be without winger Darian Jenkins, who is still injured following her early exit from Kansas City’s game at NJ/NY Gotham last Friday.

Williams has remained coy on who else is unavailable, but he will also be without centerback Taylor Leach, who underwent successful surgery last week for a foot injury she sustained in KC’s 2-1 loss to Washington on June 26.

“One of my goals is that we are as consistent lineup as possible,” Williams said. “As for the rest, we will try to be as consistent as we can in all other positions.”

But just as Kansas City is losing players through international duty, OL Reign is in a similarly precarious position.

The Reign will be without Angelina (Brazil), Quinn (Canada), Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle (United States), and Nicole Momiki (Japan) throughout the Olympics. All five players the Reign are losing operate in the midfield or attack, creating a vacuum of space in the middle.

But Williams still believes that OL has built a roster with Olympic losses in mind and can handle the setback.

“The players that they brought in were world-class players that Reign knew were not going to the Olympics,” Williams said. “So the squad that they have is arguably one of the best squads to be put together in women’s soccer.”

He specifically points to German Dzsenifer Marozsan, calling her one of the best midfielders in the world, and Welsh midfielder Jess Fishlock. He also expects Sofia Huerta, who has made seven U.S. Women’s National Team appearances, to start on the left and 2019 Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer to start in the middle.

“We’ve got to respect what they can do,” Williams said.

KC snapped a six-game losing streak last Friday with its 1-1 tie at Gotham and is keen to not immediately slip into another funk.

“It’s been wet and wild, man,” KC midfielder Lo LaBonta said about the past week. “So sweaty because of the heat and the humidity, and I think we’re on this up and coming where we are getting better, things are clicking.”

Thursday saw a high-intensity 30-minute small-sided scrimmage near the end of KC’s practice, with Williams getting the team prepared to play on the Reign’s smaller field. A large emphasis has been put on being defensively organized and understanding how the Reign rotates.

The attention to detail is to the point where, during corner-kick practice, Williams would only allow LaBonta to take one footstep back to account for the short run-up players have at Reign’s Cheney Stadium.

“It’s one of Huw’s footsteps and about three of mine,” LaBonta said with a laugh.

“We’re pushing even harder to be better, and you can see it where people are literally tackling people out there,” she continued. “I love it, I go home with bruises and cuts every day, so it’s really fun.”

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