It only took three minutes for NC Courage forward Crystal Dunn to put the Courage on the scoreboard and they never looked back as they cruised to a 2-0 victory over the lowly Houston Dash. The Courage (5W-1D-0L; 16 points) hold a commanding lead in the NWSL standings as the only undefeated team after five weeks of regular season play. The Courage dominated the match from whistle to whistle, allowing just two good scoring chances for the Dash.
The Courage lineup, after changing every single week for the first 11 games of the 2017 season, held steady with a 4-4-2 diamond featuring the same 10 field players that started the match last weekend against Utah. The only change came at the goalkeeper position where Sabrina D’Angelo got the start over Katelyn Rowland.
Houston took the opening kickoff, but it took just three minutes for the visiting team to put one into the back of the net. The Courage won a throw-in deep in the Houston defensive third, and Jess McDonald pulled out her incredible long throw. The ball went over the Houston defenders, hit the ground, bounced over another Houston defender and was easily finished by Crystal Dunn. It was an embarrassing display by the Dash and a clinical finish that Houston ‘keeper Jane Campbell had no chance of saving. You have to see it to believe it.
The rest of the first half was unimpressive. The Courage had plenty of opportunities early in the half, but they slowed down and gave Houston too much time to work from about the 25th minute forward. The most dangerous moment of the match came when Houston played a corner in, and Abby Dahlkemper headed the ball straight up into the air in a poor clearance. Amber Brooks of Houston headed the ball towards goal, but D’Angelo barely tipped the ball into the crossbar. The ball only bounced out to the top of the six-yard box where Kristie Mewis and Lynn Williams struggled to connect with the ball. Eventually, the ball was cleared away by Dahlkemper, but it was a tense thirty seconds. During the mayhem, Williams put her boot near the face of Kristie Mewis and could have been called for a penalty kick, but it was missed by the ref.
The second half started exactly like the first, with Kristen Hamilton scoring a goal three minutes into the half. Jae Hinkle took a corner from the right side, but the ball was cleared cleanly by the Houston defense. Denise O’Sullivan challenged Kyah Simon for the header, and the ball was collected by Hamilton. She took one touch and sent a rocket to the bottom-left corner of the goal. It all happened so fast that Campbell had no time to react to the shot.
The rest of the game was mostly to the Courage’s favor. The Dash had two strong attacking opportunities, but there weren’t many opportunities for them to put pressure on Sabs D’Angelo and the North Carolina defense. The Courage finished the day with 27 shots, which is a little above their season average. The only negative moment of the match was when Lynn Williams found herself faced up against Jane Campbell one-on-one. Williams tried to curl the ball into the right side netting, but she missed wide. It was a repeat of a problem that has plagued Willaims and the rest of the Courage offense, but Williams has been struggling more than anyone else. It didn’t matter in this game, but there might be times in future games where we need that goal to get the win.
- The Courage have now scored 11 goals in six matches this season. The next best team is the Chicago Red Stars with 8 goals in five matches. At this rate, they will score 6 more goals this season than they did in 2017.
- The Houston Dash are worst in the league with just one goal this season. They have not scored since the 38th minute in their first match of the season.
- Crystal Dunn’s goal moved her to second in the league with three goals so far in 2018. She trails just Christine Sinclair of the Portland Thorns FC.
- Last season the Courage were the only team to win more than half of their road games, and they have started out 2-0-0 on the road in 2018.