The North Carolina Courage will take the field for the first time in 2017 against the Washington Spirit at the Maryland Soccerplex at 3PM EDT. The game will be shown live and free on the go90 app and website.
Hopefully, you devoured the SB Nation Season Preview but in case you missed it check it out. This should be a season that NWSL can come into its own. There is only one announced international break that will take players from teams this year so the parity of the league should be more effective this season. The league also signed a multi-year partnership to broadcast games on the Lifetime network. News that the league will also show games on the go90 app and website should also bring a more polished and professional look to broadcasts compared to last year when games were shown on YouTube.
Know your foe: The Washington Spirit
After losing several key players, the Spirit are expected to take a drop off of their form from last year when they made it to the NWSL Championship game, but they could surprise some folks. Key departures to the team have the squad looking totally different and the Spirit may struggle to score goals this year and defense will also be an issue for them.
Their key player is Sam Mewis’ sister Kristie. She can play as a playmaker or as a wide midfielder. The Spirit’s Mewis has excellent long range shooting ability, great vision, and field awareness. She was a standout for the Breakers last year in a season that had few highlights for the Boston team.
Washington will be hoping their forwards can step up and continue the success that the team had last year when it scored 30 goals, good for third overall in NWSL in 2016. The team lost Crystal Dunn in the offseason to Chelsea, but she only played in 13 games last year contributing two goals and five assists. Coach Jim Gabarra has a lot of options at forward and the Spirit was very good as a team last year generating chances and will have to rely on that again this year.
Key Matchup: The Spirit front line against the Courage defense
The Courage should get their fair share of chances in this game. Lynn Williams and Jess McDonald had a great season last year together and should continue to build on that chemistry this year. The backline is another issue. North Carolina needed to work on the defense and add some pieces in the offseason and went in the other direction adding two Brazilian attackers, Rosana and Debinha, and drafting forward Ashley Hatch.
The team traded away Alanna Kennedy who started 15 games at center back and added Japanese international Yuri Kawamura who is expected to play as a right back. With all of the options that Washington has at forward and the variety of ways that the team can score goals, Carolina will have to come together and defend as a unit.
The game will really hinge on how the Courage can limit the Spirit from creating chances. If they can do that NC should be in good shape to at least secure a draw if not steal three points on the road this week.