The North Carolina Courage will look to bounce back from a tough 2-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars last weekend. In that match, the Courage started off brightly with a goal by Lynn Williams thanks to an assist from Jess McDonald. Chicago equalized in the 52nd minute but it looked like looked like the goal from the combo that proved so fruitful for the team last season would at least secure a draw. The Red Stars secured all three points with a goal from Julie Ertz in the 84th minute. North Carolina largely dominated the match and played well enough to earn a draw, but the late goal sealed the victory for Chicago.
Houston comes into the game coming off of a poor performance against the Seattle Reign. The match, held in Dallas due to Hurricane Harvey, saw the Dash find few positive moments. Houston failed to create even a shot on target while losing the fourth game in the past five matches.
What to watch for
If the Courage manage to bounce back, they will clinch a home field playoff match. However, in order to make that happen, the team will have to capitalize on its possession. Even on the road, North Carolina led the Red Stars in the possession category but failed to create chances. In stark contrast to last year when the team led the league in goals scored but needed the offense to bail out a spotty backline, the attack this year has struggled to score goals at times.
For their part, Houston has some talented players but has had mostly disjointed performances all season. It won’t help that Carli Lloyd is expected to miss this match with an ankle injury, she was also held out of the USWNT roster for the team’s friendlies next week. However, the Dash will look to newcomer Kristie Mewis to lead the midfield. She will look to attacking midfielder Andressa to help create chances and provide service for the forwards, especially Nichelle Prince.
While the Courage have the best defense in the league, Houston has struggled defensively, allowing the 4th most goals in NWSL. North Carolina should have an opportunity to both control the ball and find chances against Houston this weekend, making the most of them may be a different story.
I think coach Paul Riley will make a few changes to try and get more effective play out of his front four and bring in Debinha to play an attacking midfield role with Makenzy Doniak sliding in at left wing.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will take on New Zealand on September 9th and 15th in a pair of international friendlies. The Courage have four players that have been called in to the squad: Defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Taylor Smith along with midfielder Sam Mewis and forward Lynn Williams.
How to watch
Kickoff: 7:30 in Cary, North Carolina