On Thursday evening the North Carolina Courage will face off against Paris Saint-Germain Women in the first match of the inaugural ICC Women’s Tournament. The match, which will kick off at 6:15 pm at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, is the first meeting between the Courage and any non-American team, and it should provide a difficult test for the undermanned squad.
Due to the timing of the Tournament of Nations, the Courage will be playing without defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Merritt Mathias, midfielders McCall Zerboni and Sam Mewis, and hybrid forward/midfielder Crystal Dunn because they will be facing off against Japan as members of the United States WNT. Brazilian midfielder Debinha will also be absent with Brazil in the same tournament. Brazil will be facing off against Australia earlier in the day.
A preseason match for PSG
The European leagues are winter leagues, so all of the teams from the old continent have not played a game match together since May. PSG played a warm-up scrimmage on July 24th in Portland against Manchester City where they were beaten 1-0. There is very little available from the match, but it sounds like Man City had the better of the play. With the beginning of the Division 1 Feminine (D1F) about a month away, this game is a prep for the beginning of training camp against three of the best women’s sides in the world.
In the Portland scrimmage, PSG came out with a 4-4-2 lineup that did not include some of their premier players. Notably, Marie-Laure Delie, the top goal scorer in PSG’s history, was not present for the match. There is no way to know now whether the same players who participated in the scrimmage will be available for the game tomorrow, but if Delie is not with the team that is a major boon for the Courage.
Paris Saint-Germain shockingly missed the 2017/18 UEFA Women’s Champions League as they were bumped to third place in the D1F by Montpellier. During the most recent D1F season, though, PSG managed to clear Montpellier with a final record of 18W-2D-2L. They finished 3 points ahead of the third place team, ensuring they would have a spot in the knockout stages of the upcoming Champions League. Then, in the final match of the D1F season, they beat Olympique Lyonnais Women to win the Coupe de France Féminine.
The big question for this match is whether we will see the full PSG squad that took down Lyon back in May, or if we will see the limited team that was taken down by Manchester City a few days ago. With absolutely no information at my disposal, I’m going to split the difference and assume that PSG will play a more determined game than they did in Portland, but not to the same level that they played in France. This would put the team squarely above the available talent of the Courage with six of their best starters unavailable, but it won’t be a distressingly uneven match. Even without some of their best players, PSG is still stacked with players from the France WNT as well as other stars from around the world.
Guessing at the Courage lineup
The Courage do have one big advantage over Paris Saint-Germain, and that is their form. In the middle of their domestic season, the Courage are one of the most physically gifted teams in the world and they should have a fitness advantage over their opponents as they face off in the summer sun and humidity of Florida.
Here’s the projected Courage lineup:
The one big change that might happen would be if Yuri Kawamura were to start as a defensive midfielder in place of Cari Roccaro. Personally, I’d rather see Kawamura there, but Riley seems to trust Roccaro.
The defense should be able to hold their own. The big question mark for this team is the offense. In the two matches where the USWNT players were missing this season the Courage scored just one goal. In the other 17 matches this season they scored 40 goals. In Utah last weekend the Courage generated 21 shots but only put four on target and scored zero goals. That will obviously be a problem in this match where somebody has to win, but if everything breaks right for the Courage they might be able to squeak out a win.
How to watch
You can’t! As of now there will be no live stream of the semifinal matches or the third place match, so if you want to see the Courage play in the ICC Women’s Tournament it will have to be in the first-place match.
The match will be live tweeted from the venue in Miami with important tweets coming through the @DirtySouthSoc main account. Look out for that tomorrow afternoon starting around 5 pm.