It was another frustrating game for the North Carolina Courage as they pounded away with shot after shot against Seattle Reign FC goalkeeper Lydia Williams, but they found themselves trailing 1-0 in the 95th minute. Then, as the sixth minute of stoppage time was coming to an end, Abby Dahlkemper took a corner kick, the ball went into the box, a slew of Courage players took shots that failed to find the back of the net, and then Lynn Williams took a shot that bounded off the post and into the goal. Seattle felt hard-done by after Dahlkemper was not called for a clear handball in the box toward the end of regulation, but for some reason the infraction was not called (a trend for this game) and no penalty was awarded.
With smoke from nearby wildfires influencing the game, the NWSL decided to give the teams a hydration break every 15 minutes. This was terrible for the Courage who tend to get stronger as the game progresses and play more poorly just after stoppages in play. The theme was played out six times in this match, with Seattle tending to dominate the first five minutes of each period while the Courage controlled the final ten minutes.
North Carolina had four great scoring opportunities in the first half. Jess McDonald, who is struggling to find her shot of late, hit the ball right at Lydia Williams in the 20th minute before heading it right at her just a few minutes later. Lynn Williams had a great cross come to her foot, but she couldn’t make solid contact and the ball bounced right to the hands of the other Williams. It proved to be an extremely frustrating half of soccer for the visitors.
Disaster struck after the first water break of the second half. Seattle took a corner kick that looked like it was far too long. Theresa Nielsen headed the ball toward goal from near the top of the 18-yard box where Jodie Taylor was waiting for it. Fortunately for Seattle, Taylor whiffed on her header, and that left Katelyn Rowland uncertain about where the ball was, and in the end it would go into the goal. It was an embarrassing goal to allow, but it counted on the scoreboard all the same.
North Carolina picked up the pace after Seattle scored, but it looked like they were going to fall short. They had numerous opportunities, including a shot that was headed off the line by Nielsen, but nothing seemed to be breaking their way in the Emerald City. For a brief moment it looked like the game would be lost, as Dahlkemper turned her back to a cross that was blocked by her arm, but the ref let the game continue without awarding a penalty kick. There were a few no-call handballs this match, including a potential one against Seattle in the box in the first half, so it was very much on-trend for the game.
Then, as the clock ticked down toward the second Courage loss of the season, magic happened. Dahlkemper set up over the ball and sent a beautiful looping ball into the box. Abby Erceg headed the ball back across the frame of goal to the head of Kristen Hamilton. Hammy headed the ball on target, but Lydia Williams was able to dive and punch the ball away. Then Samantha Mewis headed the ball back toward the goal, but it was cleared off the line by Nahomi Kawasumi. Then McCall Zerboni took a shot that was blocked by a mass of bodies. Then, finally, Williams got a boot on the ball and it ricocheted off the post and into the goal. It all happened in the blink of an eye, but the Courage had scored the equalizer.
The game was almost immediately called on the restart, annoyingly, but the team had fought back to earn the draw.
North Carolina has one more match this season where they will contest six different potential records as they host the Houston Dash. That match won’t take place until September 8th.
The USWNT has two friendly matches against Chile scheduled during the FIFA break, but more importantly, Europe will play its final round of group stage World Cup qualifying. Those games will be absolutely captivating, so if you’re pining for women’s soccer next week you should tune in to those matches. It is unlikely but entirely possible that Germany and England, ranked 2nd and 4th in the world, could miss the upcoming World Cup if they lose one of their qualifiers. Exciting stuff.