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Ballisager brings quality play and leadership to surging Kansas City Current backline

The Kansas City Current backline just keeps getting stronger.

The team hasn’t allowed a goal in 343 minutes, between NWSL and Challenge Cup play, and has conceded just four goals in the last 630 minutes of competition.

This strong run of defensive form has coincided with the return of Elizabeth Ball to the Current’s backline. And it’s been underpinned by goalkeeper AD Franch’s best form of the season.

Now, the Current are adding a world-class center back to the mix.

Newcomer Stine Ballisager Pedersen was introduced to the media Thursday. She’s a defender with whom interim head coach Caroline Sjöblom was familiar before either arrived in Kansas City.

“The things that I see that she can bring to our team is experience with (in-the-box) defending,” Sjöblom said. “She has this timing to be in the right spot and when to drop, when to step.”

Ballisager arrived earlier in the week and has had a couple of training sessions with the team. But it might be another week before she plays a part in KC’s match-day roster.

Ballisager, a native of Denmark, spent weeks in Australia playing for her nation in the Women’s World Cup. Then she returned to Europe to await her visa. Given the time changes — not to mention some severe climate-shock now, with Kansas City in the middle of a heatwave — the Current will give her some time to get acclimated.

Ballisager spent the past six seasons with Valarenga in Norway. The 29-year-old said she felt it was time for a new adventure and new challenges, and the Current offered the best landing spot.

“It’s so nice to come to a club where they are so passionate about women’s soccer and women’s sport,” she said.

Ballisager said she’s impressed by the Current’s training facility and is eager to see the new riverfront stadium under construction for next season. Her contract runs through the 2024 season, so she will undoubtedly play in the new stadium.

Sjöblom touted Ballisager’s leadership as one of her best assets. Ballisager captained Valarenga and has been a steady presence on the Danish backline during international competition.

“I am expecting Stine to bring competition for the starting spots,” Sjöblom said. “And it’s not always about the starting 11, it’s also about the ending 11 in the games.”

Players have made a difference off the bench during the Current’s resurgence. Cece Kizer and Hailie Mace scored their last two goals across all competitions, coming off the bench in the second half of matches to help KC secure three points.

While Ballisager may not score many goals, she pledged to put in good slide tackles. And stalwart defense can certainly help a team close out tight games. Her defensive prowess should be valuable with the Current’s margins razor-thin down the stretch as they seek a return to the NWSL postseason.

NWSL playoff race: Where the KC Current stand

The Current travel to Houston for a 7:30 p.m. game on Saturday.

KC is out of last place and into 11th with six regular-season matches remaining. While the Current picked up three crucial points last weekend, they’re still six points below the playoff line.