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Match preview: NC Courage at Sky Blue FC

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The first place Courage look for a win on the road

Grant Halverson/isiphotos.com

The NC Courage continued their perfect run in 2018 with a perhaps too close for comfort 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit. Both teams had their chances in the match, but it was the Courage who came out on top. The game was not without some other tense moments as Lynn Williams was left out of the 18 due to injury and Crystal Dunn came off in the 50th minute limping. The upcoming game against Sky Blue may again test the depth of the Courage, a theme that arose last year as the team heavily rotated players to stay fresh for the playoffs.

Sky Blue look to find their footing

Well, things haven’t gone too well for Sky Blue FC this season. After a full rebuild and hiring of a new manager, the team sits in last in the NWSL table. That comes with the caveat that the team has played just 5 games, which is as many as 4 fewer than others in the league, but their winless record tells the full story. However, with so few games played relative to the rest of the league, the team still has time to turn their season around. However, they’ll have to figure out how to stop players from doing things like this against them and dance like it’s 2006 in celebration:

Still, Sky Blue have some players that could make things difficult for the Courage. Savannah McCaskill showed why she was the no. 2 overall pick in the NWSL draft and managed the team’s lone goal in their last match. However, Sky Blue also features Carli Lloyd who seems to have lost a step in the three years since her brilliant World Cup performance, but is still a force on the field. While Lloyd may have a penchant for taking ill-advised shots, she did set up McCaskill’s goal and the two should look to combine to trouble the Courage backline in the match.

NC Courage and flawed perfection

There isn’t much to complain about when your team is undefeated and has only allowed five goals in eight games. To this point in the season, the team has had little that it seems it could improve upon. The defense has been stout and cohesive and the goalkeeping jitters that were evident during the 2-2 draw with Utah Royals FC seem to have been resolved. However, there does seem to be one area that the Courage should hope improves in coming weeks: finishing.

The Courage have taken 129 shots this season with 58 going on target - of those 13 have gone in the net. It isn’t a great ratio and the team’s leading shot taker, Lynn Williams, has attempted 27 shots with just one goal and seven tries on frame. Meanwhile Crystal Dunn has 18 shots with 10 on target and three goals and Jess McDonald rounds out the top three with 9 of 19 shots on goal and two going into the net. With a struggling, last place team hosting the Courage this weekend, this should be a match that North Carolina looks to find the net early and often. The team has found itself in dangerous positions with an ability to get shots throughout their matches all year, but the outbreak of goals hasn’t quite rewarded their efforts.

As far as how the team will line up, well it seems like Paul Riley has settled on a formation after cycling through several last season. Let’s see if he keeps it going with a 4-4-2 diamond yet again this weekend:

For all of the above talk about shots and goals, I’m thinking coach Riley looks at grinding out a road win here and gives some of his perhaps still ailing players a little more recovery time.

How to watch

Saturday May 19; 7:00PM at Yurcak Field Piscataway Township, New Jersey. Streaming on go90.com and the go90 app