The NC Courage won in convincing fashion on Wednesday night, beating the Houston Dash 4-0. The result means that the Courage are NWSL Shield winners and have clinched the top seed in the playoffs. This continues Coach Paul Riley’s impressive run of form with the team since winning the NWSL Championship last season. No doubt, the team will look to bring the championship trophy home to Cary, but they now also have a chance to win a double.
North Carolina will face the Orlando Pride in the final game of the regular season. While the playoff teams are set, the matchups have not been completely resolved. The Courage and Portland Thorns have the first two spots nailed down, but only two points separates the third place Chicago Red Stars from the fourth place Orlando Pride. Interestingly, Chicago and Portland square off this afternoon and Orlando visits Cary tonight. By the time the match between Carolina and Orlando kicks off all of this could be a moot point, but conceivably Orlando could be hoping for a win against North Carolina to avoid playing the Courage in the first round of the playoffs.
What to watch for
This seems like the kind of game where all bets will be off. Coach Riley can either rest his players coming off of a midweek game and see what his deeper roster options have to offer, or he can try to influence the course of how the playoff seeds will shake out. That said, North Carolina lost all three of their matches against Chicago this year and his preference might just be to try to avoid them in the first round to make them face Portland for a second straight week. Again, all that assumes that Chicago loses to the Thorns this afternoon.
No comment. Riley has made several changes throughout the past few weeks even moving into a 4-4-2 at times in recent games. With the Shield clinched and undetermined playoff matchups as of now, all I know is that my lineup prediction will be wrong.
How to watch: