The NC Courage are coming off of a rain soaked and weather delayed 0-0 draw against Sky Blue FC last weekend. It was the typical Courage performance with lots of chances created and the opposition on their heels for most of the match. It seemed like there were times when the team was on the cusp of scoring, but a combination of stout defending from the visitors and a long weather delay meant that the game ended with North Carolina failing to make the most of their chances.
The Chicago Red Stars - undefeated no more
The Red Stars come into this match off of a hard fought 1-0 loss to the Utah Royals. The team traveled to Sandy and a red card in the 42nd minute given to midfielder Katie Johnson turned what had been a promising start for the visitors into a defensive battle. To their credit, the Red Stars held on until the 84th minute when Amy Rodriguez gave Utah the game winner. It was Chicago’s first loss of the season and while they looked fairly good without Alyssa Naeher, Julie, Ertz, Tierna Davidson, and Morgan Brian in the first half, red cards have a habit of changing things.
For this match, the Red Stars will be without their US national teamers but will also be missing Johnson due to suspension. That said, one player who is not going to be missing is Sam Kerr. The Aussie striker showed in the first meeting between these two teams why she is so dangerous. Even against a team with as strong a defense as the Courage have, she can score - and that was on the road. That game saw the Red Stars hold their lead until the 66th minute and then escape with a draw.
This is an important game for the home team. At the moment they have five points off of four matches and taking points from playoff rivals will be key for them to make the post season. With the Courage lacking their stars, Chicago has a chance to do that and it would make sense for them come out with an aggressive game plan.
The NC Courage - it’s all about chances, converting them and containing them
It’s hard to draw conclusions from a game played in a monsoon, at least the teams didn’t have to fly to Portland to finish the match, but the Courage looked pretty dominant regardless of the weather. Of course, that domination doesn’t matter if the ball doesn’t go in the net. Still, it was encouraging to see that the team could maintain its style of play even without several starters.
A key in this match will be how Kaleigh Kurtz plays in the match. She was solid if relatively untested in the game against Sky Blue. She will be tested Sunday squaring up against Sam Kerr as she looks to contain the striker potentially in front of third string keeper Sam Leshnak as Stephanie Labbe is on national team duty and Katelyn Rowland may not be back from injury. At the very least, she’ll be lined up next to Abby Erceg as the pair try to hold off the Red Stars attack.
Paul Riley will have big decisions to make in this match in terms of personnel. Julia Spetsmark got the start last weekend, but Leah Puritt has been impressive off the bench. The team may also need something of an attacking spark and Heather O’Reilly is obviously capable of providing it - whether the manager continues to use her off the bench or puts her in the starting 11 is a different story.
How to watch
Kickoff: 6PM EST