The North Carolina Courage followed up their 3-0 victory over the Orlando Pride over the weekend with a 4-1 drubbing of the Chicago Red Stars on the 4th of July. After nearly a two hour delay due to lightning around Shalen’s Stadium at WakeMed Park, the Courage would make yet another statement and perhaps showed that their scoring struggles are behind them.
Through the first fifteen minutes, each team traded chances. Misses from Jess McDonald and Sam Kerr, both played through behind their respective opponents’ backlines, seemed to set the stage for an exciting and back and forth match. The first goal of the game would come after 20 minutes when a pair of runs from Debinha and Lynn Williams cleared space for Crystal Dunn to take a shot. The traffic in front of the box parted just right and Dunn sloted her effort past Alyssa Naeher.
Chicago had been having success breaking the North Carolina press until the goal by mixing short passes and timely long balls. After the goal, the Courage were happy to sit back just a little deeper, not committing as much in the attack. The Red Stars were then forced to try and break through the more conservative North Carolina approach and the chances for both teams became more sporadic.
Debinha started the fireworks early in the 39th minute juggling the ball to beat her marker at midfield, running the ball up field and nearly playing Lynn Williams through on goal. With the Red Stars putting more players forward, the Courage were able to create several dangerous chances in transition when taking the ball off of Chicago attackers. The Courage would see out the half, limiting the Red Stars’ chances and largely dominating after scoring the goal.
The second half would be all about the North Carolina press - well, for about 20 minutes at least. Would it continue to be effective or would Chicago break through for an equalizer? Could Paul Riley again frustrate his opposing manager by sitting on a one goal lead and press and hustle his team to victory?
It kinda wouldn’t matter. North Carolina ended up pushing forward for a second goal and would do much, much more than that.
After a flurry of chances with the Red Stars failing to clear the ball out of their 18 yard box, the ball fell to Lynn Williams who made no mistake and slammed home the second goal of the game in the 67th minute.
With the Courage comfortably ahead, Riley made a switch bringing Dunn off for Sam Mewis immediately after the goal. North Carolina would continue its trend of scoring in bunches when Debinha scored just minutes later. Mewis would send a ball cutting through the Red Stars’ defense for the assist on the play, having just entered the game.
Even though it wasn’t a goal or a thrilling save, Courage fans would again have reason to cheer in the 75th minute. That’s when Riley went to his bench and brought in Heather O’Reilly for Debinha as the former Tar Heel made her debut for the team.
Despite the match being comfortably in hand, the Courage would press on for a fourth goal. After another set of crosses in which the Red Stars again failed to clear the ball, Naeher came off her line to try to win a ball in her area. She misjudged it and the ball fell to Williams who easily crossed the ball where it would find the forehead of Kristen Hamilton to put the Courage up 4-0.
The goals were not done though, but this time it would be Chicago finding the net. Abby Dahlkemper fouled Yuki Nagasato in the box as she made a run to try and win a ball that Katelyn Rowland looked sure to get to giving up a penalty. Nagasato would score it to make the game 4-1 in the 93rd minute. Soon after the restart, the referee blew his whistle and the Courage were victorious.