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Lo’eau LaBonta: KC Current players shocked by coach firing

The firing of coach Matt Potter took Kansas City Current players by surprise. (Amy Kontras/USA TODAY Sports)

The firing of Kansas City Current head coach Matt Potter came as a surprise to the team’s players.

Following Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the Houston Dash, which came hours after the announcement of Potter’s dismissal, Current midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta described her “shock” at the decision. When asked if she had any issues with Potter, or knew of any teammates who had issues with the coach, she said no.

“Not to my knowledge, no,” she told reporters after the match. “I’ve done numerous interviews with Matt and about Matt, and Matt literally just did one for me. And we’re very truthful people. We had no knowledge that this was going to happen at all. We didn’t have any say in it. It was news to us and where the whole shock came from.”

CeCe Kizer, seated next to LaBonta, said she felt the same as LaBonta.

Potter had been with the club in Houston ahead of the Challenge Cup opener. Kansas City had lost its first three matches of the regular season, but Potter had led the team to the NWSL championship match in 2022 in his first season as coach. The Current cited “issues around his leadership and employment responsibilities” in the announcement of his dismissal.

Current players were informed of Potter’s exit shortly before the news became public, about six hours before kickoff, LaBonta said.

“A lot of people asked me how I felt after, and I felt I was doing collateral damage (control) and checking in with every single player I could,” LaBonta said. “Especially the ones back home because they weren’t delivered the message face to face. They unfortunately had to get on a phone call because they just weren’t here.

“Everybody has told me to take time and sit on my emotions. But my first thought was, how are my teammates, how is Caroline [Sjöblom] going to take this new leadership role. And then we have Houston. We have to win a game.”

Sjöblom joined the Current as an assistant coach in the offseason and now is serving as interim head coach.

“There have been a lot of emotions today and maybe a little bit of chaos as well,” she said after Wednesday’s win. “From my side, I tried to keep all the focus on what can we do today. We can be a team today. We can play with a lot of effort. We can play with our heart. We can play with the energy that we have within this group. I think that is what we showed today as well.”

She wanted to provide a calming presence for the team, she said. Plus, she is “used to being a head coach,” and that, she thinks, helped the players on the pitch.

Chicago Red Stars assistant coach Ella Masar, who worked as an assistant in Kansas City last season, also commented on Potter’s firing, saying in a statement that it was “not the time and/or place” to tell “her story.”

“I truly wish them the best and think Sjöblom is a great addition to the club.” she wrote. “But again, actions always speak louder than words.”