On a wet afternoon in Orlando, the North Carolina Courage collectively played one of their best halves of soccer as they steamrolled the Orlando Pride 3-0. The Courage improved to 11W-3D-1L and increased their lead over the rest of the field to 13 points.
Katelyn Rowland - 6.5: Rowland consistently made the right play early in the match, although she had one major blunder when she softly passed the ball up the middle of the field to the feet of an Orlando player. She made a few amazing saves to earn her second shutout of the season.
Merritt Mathias - 7.5: Mathias scored for the second straight match, this time from the top of the box. She played well on the flank defensively, but it was very clear that Orlando was trying to force the ball to the left side of the defense where Kaleigh Kurtz was making her first start outside. Mathias was consistent but it was not an unusually spectacular game for her.
Abby Erceg - 6.5: The first of our Abby’s had a good game, but she wasn’t regularly involved in play. Occasionally she was caught flat-footed allowing attacking players to get behind her, but her heading clears were much needed in a game where Orlando had double digit corner kicks.
Abby Dahlkemper - 5.5: Dahlkemper looked a little rusty after missing the last three matches as she recovered from a knee injury. None of her mistakes were particularly egregious, but she didn’t look confident on the ball. A wet pitch with players like Marta and Morgan charging you in your first match back will do that to any defender.
Kaleigh Kurtz - 7.0: Kurtz can take a bow after that performance. No player on the Courage was faced up against charging Orlando attackers and Kurtz proved to be up to the task time and time again. It was obvious that Orlando head coach Tom Sermanni made a point of putting pressure on Kurtz, but she never broke. Her only mistakes occurred when she had the ball at her feet, where she made a number of poor passes. KK didn’t contribute to the offense like Hinkle normally does and she didn’t horizontally stretch the field, but she didn’t need to do that to have an impact on the game.
McCall Zerboni - 7.0: This was an excellent bounce-back game for McCall. She absolutely dominated the Orlando midfield for the entire first half, and she would have gotten a higher score if she had been able to maintain that throughout the game. She was good but not exceptional in the second half, but everyone on the Courage side played a little flat in the second 45.
Denise O’Sullivan - 8.5: This week’s co-player of the match was Denise O’Sullivan. She had, unquestionably, her best half of the season in the first 45 of this game. Whereas she was unable to find the ball in the last match, this weekend Denise made a point of challenging players aggressively and forcing turnovers in the Orlando side of the field. Her most impressive moves occurred in the attack. She was more confident than I’ve ever seen her on the ball, and on two of the three goals she dribbled right at the Orlando defense, drew four defenders to her, then played a cheeky outlet pass with the outside of her right foot. This opened space for the other attacking players over and over again all game. Amazing work.
Debinha - 8.5: The other co-player of the match! Debinha must have been inspired by playing against three of her fellow Brazilian WNT players as she worked as hard as she has all season. Oh, and it helps that she scored the first goal of the match and got an assist on the Merritt’s goal (speaking of that, if the NWSL gave out double assists like MLS then O’Sullivan would also have had an assist on that goal). There isn’t much to say that wasn’t said in O’Sullivan’s piece above. Debinha repeatedly cut out the ball, and she could have had another goal or two if her shot had been a touch more on from distance on Saturday.
Crystal Dunn - 8.0: Crystal Dunn was much less engaged this game than she was a weekend ago. She played a nearly flawless match, but she just didn’t have to be the sole scoring threat like she did the previous week. Early in the season, Paul Riley mentioned that he was still trying to find the right place for Dunn on the team, and I think that’s been solved. She is one of the most influential players in the league, week in and week out.
Jessica McDonald - 7.0: McDonald became the second player in NWSL history to reach 40 goals. Congrats Jess! It was a kind of awkward shot, but it beat the keeper and that’s all that matters. McDonald was consistently good this game, but she also had a fair number of missteps. Some of her big contributions were on the defensive end, where she seemed to be tasked with marking Alanna Kennedy on free kicks. She did well in that role.
Lynn Williams - 6.0: This was a good match for Williams even if she wasn’t one of the main attacking presences for the team. I think there were times when she seemed a little lost because Debinha and O’Sullivan were doing so much of the pressing defensive work, but she intercepted a few passes and tended to be in the right place. Her one great shot attempt was hit well high of the bar.