The North Carolina Courage wrote their own masterpiece this weekend in A Tale of Two Days. The match against the Orlando Pride was stretched across two separate days due to inclement weather and the difference between the two segments couldn’t have been more stark. 22 minutes of the match were played on Saturday night and were completely dominated by the Pride, but the last 68 minutes of the match were won by the Courage.
On Saturday the match was supposed to kick off at 7:00 pm, but the game was delayed until 8:35 due to lightning. About 7,000 people filed into the stadium to watch the Courage get beaten up and down the field for 22 minutes before a line of storms postponed the game until Sunday. The Pride had their first shot on goal in the 4th minute with goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland just tipping the ball over the goal. Orlando would go on to rack up seven corner kicks in the next 18 minutes of play, but the most dangerous moment of the match came in the 15th minute when Alex Morgan had the entire Courage defense beaten with her shot, but it bounded mercifully off the post as Rowland watched in horror. Then the whistles blew and everyone went home.
Upon restart, both teams were a little slow, something that was probably to be expected with a 10:00 am kick off. This time things went much better for the Courage, and they were able to consistently thwart the offensive possession of Orlando. As the half came to a close it felt like the Courage were getting close to a goal, but with only 25 minutes of play in the first half the goal never quite came.
The two teams remained fairly evenly matched through the first twenty minutes of the second half. Marta had a few good chances early and the Courage were prone to giving up free kicks, while North Carolina felt hard-done by a few questionable offside calls including one that negated a Crystal Dunn goal. Things changed for the Courage when Jess McDonald was replaced by Denise O’Sullivan in the 66th minute. Samantha Mewis had a well placed header that was just barely saved by Ashlyn Harris in the 71st minute, but the flood gates finally broken when Lynn Williams dribbled the ball to the end line, sent a hard cross into the six-yard box, and a deflection off of Orlando defender Shelina Zadorsky sent the ball past Harris and into the back of the net. It all happened so fast and it took a while to determine that it was an own goal, but all that really mattered was that the score was now 1-0 for the Courage.
The second goal also saw Williams as the creator. A through ball intended for Williams was cut off by Ali Krieger, but the overconfident Krieger tried to shield the ball out of bounds and Williams was able to sneak her foot in and keep the play going. The ball rolled right to the feet of Debinha who blasted a shot between the legs of Alanna Kennedy and into the top of the net to extend the lead to 2-0.
The final goal of the match was one of the easiest scored this season. In a quick counter, Merritt Mathias received the ball on the right side of the pitch, dribbled forward, and then looked up to send service into the box. Three Courage players standing in the box and zero Orlando defenders. She sent a cross in, and Williams was able to stand still and send the ball into the far post netting as cool as heading practice. The game would end with a 3-0 Courage win over Orlando for the second time this season.
After the final goal one important thing did happen. Orlando midfielder Dani Weatherholt beat Mathias in the attacking third and Mathias grabbed her jersey and held her back extremely ostensibly. In any other situation she would have received a yellow card, but with her already sitting on a single yellow from the first half and the game about to end the head ref decided not to shot Mathias the second yellow. This is crap. She should have gotten the red card because it was such a blatant tactical foul. Even loving the team, I really dislike when refs make such blatantly wrong decisions because they are afraid of giving out a red card. The NWSL is already extremely weak with respect to cards, but this was probably the most blatant non-card the Courage have committed this season.