It’s a homecoming of sorts for former Wake Forest defender Ally Haran. On Monday, the North Carolina Courage announced that they were signing CB Ally Haran, and Courage nation let out a collective “who?” The ex-Demon Deacon played for four years in college, including two years as the team captain in her junior and senior seasons. After college she was recruited to play in Iceland for UMF Selfoss in their top professional league, the Úrvalsdeild kvenna.
After we reached out to the head coach of UMF Selfoss, Alfreð Elías Jóhannsson, Haran’s journey came into clearer focus. She played left center back for her club in a 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s one that should feel very similar to the 4-4-2 box that Courage head coach Paul Riley employs. The addition of a solid CB was necessary for North Carolina with starters Abby Dahlkemper and Abby Erceg both projected to miss months of the upcoming NWSL season at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
When asked about Ally’s skills and growth with Selfoss, Jóhannsson said “Ally’s football IQ is outstanding, good first touch and very calm on the ball. I knew we were getting a good player but immediately from the first game I saw we hit the jackpot. Her leadership skills grew stronger and she quickly got used to the Icelandic league, and she just played better and better every week.”
About Haran’s personality on and off the field, he responded “First of all is she easy to work with. She is calm and takes good care of her self outside as well as in the field, she is a top professional athlete, everything she does she does 100%.”
Those are the kinds of traits that Riley cherishes in his players, and it’s a big reason that the Courage have been in the NWSL championship for the last two years. North Carolina is known for its tenacity, drive, and ability to win with any players on the pitch. It sounds like Haran is going to fit perfectly into the Courage culture.
Finally, I asked Jóhannsson if there was anything he wanted to add about Ally. He gave glowing praise. “We were very pleased to have Ally in our team and she definitely made the team better. Ally was voted the best player in our team last season and if you look through the numbers on Instat you will see that she is in the starting eleven. I know she will do very well for North Carolina Courage and I wish her all the best.” The InStat data he is referring to had Haran in the Best XI in the Icelandic league last year.
Lið ársins í Pepsideild kvenna miðað við InStat tölfræðina. // Team of the year in Pepsideildin according to the InStat index. #pepsikvk #fotboltinet pic.twitter.com/Jt0lmuImHO— Guðmundur Karl (@dullari) October 3, 2018
The addition is very reminiscent of the Kaleigh Kurtz signing by North Carolina last season. Kurtz played her first year of professional soccer after college in Sweden before being signed by the Courage. She went on to be a major player at centerback whenever Dahlkemper was away with the USWNT, including a massive role in helping the Courage beat Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon in the International Champion’s Cup. The depth of every team in the NWSL will be tested with the World Cup scheduled during the 2019 season, but North Carolina is poised to be one of the best prepared teams in the league.