Greetings from the Big Apple! I’m about to embark on a trip to Iceland after a wedding last night, so here I am writing from hotels/airports to bring you the shocking news that the North Carolina Courage are better than Sky Blue FC! I know, it’s a hot take.
More seriously, though, this game went more or less exactly as it should have gone. With the Courage playing their third game in seven days, it was within the realm of possibility that the short-rest Courage could be slowed down by SBFC, but that never really transpired. The Courage dominated the opening minutes of the match.
After missing a few easy shots, the Courage finally got on the board in the 15th minute. Debinha took a corner kick from the left side of goal, but it was headed away by Sky Blue. Merritt Mathias collected the ball at the top of the box, but instead of shooting she passed right to Kristen Hamilton. The ball nearly crossed the end line, but Hamilton sent a cross to the back post where Abby Erceg was able to place a near-post header past SBFC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.
The rest of the first half showed that Sky Blue wasn’t going to sit back and be beaten. They had numerous good scoring opportunities, but saves by Katelyn Rowland and the post kept the 1-0 scoreline going into halftime.
As is typical for Sky Blue, they only showed up for one half of the game. The Courage opened the flood gates in the second half with forward Lynn Williams scoring her sixth, seventh, and eighth goals of the season in the second 45 minutes of the match. It was the second hat trick of the NWSL season, and it briefly tied her in the race for the Golden Boot with Sam Kerr, but Kerr would score a goal late in Chicago’s match against Seattle to put her back on top.
Hamilton would get her second assist on Lynn’s first goal in the 56th minute. Crystal Dunn played a through ball that was deflected by a Sky Blue defender to the feet of Hamilton who was making a run into the box. As Sheridan closed down on her, Hamilton slipped the ball to her left to Williams who scored against an essentially open goal from six yards out.
The third Courage goal was a quick, clinical strike that combined three passes to move the ball from the defensive third to the goal in just 40 seconds. Mathias took a throw in near at the corner flag, and she was able to send the ball about thirty yards up the field to Williams. Lynn passed the ball to Debinha, who briefly held the ball just shy of midfield before she sent a perfectly weighted pass forward to Williams who was streaking up the field. She took two touches and easily finished past Sheridan. This was an important goal for Williams, since she had been struggling beating goalkeepers one-v-one this season.
Williams finished up her hat trick in the 89th minute. With the Courage looking to run out the clock, a Sky Blue defender played a painfully weak ball back to Sheridan, who sprinted forward to attempt to make the clear. Williams and Sheridan got to the ball at the same moment, but Williams won the ball and scored against a completely open goal. It was hardly a banger, but scoring a hat trick by any means against any team is tough.
The Courage will play again on Friday, July 20th at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. They will be facing off against Utah Royals FC, the only team they have yet to beat this season. That game is going to be a strange one, because all of the USWNT players will already be away training for the Tournament of Nations. This means that the Courage will likely be without some combination of Williams, Dunn, Dahlkemper, Mathias, Zerboni, and Mewis.