The 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup continues Wednesday, and the Kansas City Current will be without star striker Lynn Williams. Williams, a USWNT forward, needs surgery for an acute injury to her right leg and will miss the 2022 NWSL season, the team announced.
Williams sustained the injury during K.C.'s opener against Racing Lousiville FC, exiting the March 18 game in the 81st minute. The Current rebounded without Williams during Challenge Cup group play, coming from behind for a win against the Chicago Red Stars on Friday.
News of Williams' season-ending injury broke ahead of the USWNT training camp roster for a pair of April friendlies. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski announced a 23-player roster for the international window against Uzbekistan, and confirmed that Williams' injury is hamstring related.
But how will the Current manage without their star forward? Here's what's next for Kansas City.
Fans can watch NWSL Challenge Cup matches live and on demand on Paramount+.
Impact was evident ... for 81 minutes
The Current made waves during the offseason after making separate trades for USWNT midfielder Sam Mewis and Williams from the North Carolina Courage. The moves were viewed as huge gains for the franchise looking to improve on its last-place finish during its inaugural season in 2021 in Kansas City.
The acquisitions alongside a crest rebrand and major facility announcements signaled a reset for Kansas City, and 81 minutes of Williams on the pitch offered a brief glimpse into possibilities for the Current.
Williams presence on the pitch had an immediate impact alongside former Courage teammates Hallie Mace, Kristen Hamilton, and Mewis. Williams was among the Current's top five players in total shots, chances created, and crosses attempted.
Her ability to take on defenders 1-on-1 from the wing to the box stretches backlines and opens space for overlapping runs from Lo'eau LaBonta and Mace among others. The elevated play on offense with so many active runs and crosses into the final third, the team ended their opening match with their highest ever expected goal rate as a club, posting a 2.41xG.
Adjusting without Williams
Kansas City head coach Matt Potter and his squad were already tasked with executing adjustments in light of losing Williams. During their Week 2 match against the Chicago Red Stars the team was noticeably less active in the final third compared to their opening draw against Louisville. The Current recorded 15 fewer shots and completed 12 fewer crosses against the Red Stars.
Kansas City's ability to slow the tempo of the match in order to pick and choose moments of attack led to a second-half comeback. Their organized methodical play appeared to lull Chicago into a false sense of security during the second half, as the team equalized and scored the game winner from a poor clearances off a throw-in.
The team has talented options in the midfield and forward core that should provide options moving forward. Kristen Hamilton is an experienced forward who will be relied upon for goal production. Addie McCain, Chardonnay Curran, and LaBonta are midfielders who have recently been active in the attack.
Elyse Bennett, a rookie, should get more time during the Challenge Cup ahead of the regular season. The 5-foot-10 forward scored 26 goals in her collegiate career at Washington State, and recorded 12 assists before being drafted by Kansas City. Bennett could be an asset to the club if she develops chemistry with other attackers.
With the Challenge Cup still in the early stages and the regular season looming next month, the team still has some time to settle into a style of play that works for them without Williams.