It looked like it was going to be the same old story 30 minutes into Kansas City NWSL’s match against the North Carolina Courage Friday night at Legends Field.
Goalkeeper Carly Nelson, making her professional debut, had come out to punch a shallow cross but botched the execution, dropping the ball to the feet of Courage midfielder Taylor Smith.
Smith took one touch in rounding KC’s Mallory Weber and was looking at a wide-open goal. Taking her time, she fired a curler toward goal and out of the reach of the scrambling Smith.
But KC defender Kristen Edmonds had sprinted behind her goalkeeper and blocked the shot, keeping the game scoreless. It was a vital defensive play that helped Kansas City earn a point at Legends Field in a 0-0 draw.
Edmonds’ 90-minute stint, in which she was handed the captain’s armband in the second half, is even more impressive considering she felt ill throughout the course of the game. She departed straight for the locker room at the full-time whistle.
“She is very good in picking positions, she’s going to do a good job, she’s just a veteran,” KC coach Huw Williams said. “She’s a professional soccer player that understands the game.”
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 24, 2021
KC traded away captain and franchise cornerstone Amy Rodriguez on Thursday to the Courage, getting three players in return. Just 36 hours later, three of the four players involved in the trade were on the field playing against their former club.
Kristen Hamilton made her first start for KC at center forward, filling the hole left by Rodriguez. Midfielder Hailie Mace was a 63rd-minute substitute.
On the other side of the field, Rodriguez suited up for the Courage as starting center forward.
Hamilton and Mace, along with new KC goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland, departed from North Carolina at 5 a.m. Thursday to be in Kansas City in time for practice. Rodriguez hasn’t even left Kansas City yet.
“It was a weird situation for everybody. It’s awkward ... we love each other so much,” Hamilton said.
The game offered little in the way of clear-cut opportunities, with Smith’s opportunity on the half-hour mark clear of the bunch.
Minutes before Edmonds’ heroics, Darian Jenkins had created KC’s best chance on a solo effort where she cut inside from the left and fired toward the far right corner. Stretching across her goal, Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy pushed the ball just wide of the post.
Mace also had an opportunity, hers in the 85th minute, but her shot was deflected wide.
Kansas City did manage to create the better of the chances through the game, outlined by its 15-7 advantage in shots taken.
The ball movement across the front line was active and could be attributed to Hamilton’s ability to find the open spaces and play quick passes back out to advance the attack.
“As fluid as we’ve been, or since we’ve been around,” Williams said. “Dynamic, determined, love the attitude, love the leadership from (Hamilton).”
Rodriguez had her own quiet debut for NC.
Already dealing with a shortage of players due to the Olympics, the Courage also had four players ruled out due to league COVID-19 protocols. They listed only four of a possible eight substitutes on the bench, forcing coach Paul Riley’s hand on starting his new forward.
— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) July 23, 2021
Chasing a loose ball, Rodriguez lost the foot race with Edmonds and ended up pushing her into Nelson, who had rushed out to collect the ball.
Edmonds stayed down for a couple of minutes but eventually got back on her feet and received a friendly hug from her old teammate. But Rodriguez was still tallied for a yellow card.
“Honestly, it’s always tough playing against your former teammates,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t feel good to go up against your friends, but that’s how I honor the game: by giving it everything I have.”
Amy Rodriguez - “So grateful for the fans here. I didn’t expect to say goodbye now, they will truly be missed. I hope I can still keep some A-Rod fans even though I won’t be in the KC jersey.” #WePlayForKC #KCvNC pic.twitter.com/RBuX2Tm29V
— Shaun Goodwin (@ShaunGoodwinKC) July 24, 2021
The tie is Kansas City’s fourth of the season and second in its last three games.