The North Carolina Courage suffered their first defeat in ten months when they traveled to face the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday afternoon. North Carolina looked uninspired for the second straight game, and Katelyn Rowland looked lousy in her first start of the season. There is plenty of time for things to turn around for the Courage, but it is looking more and more likely that there will need to be a formation change for this team to be successful. It had been almost two years since the Courage had suffered a multi-goal defeat, but that changed this afternoon.
After a tough outing last weekend against Sky Blue FC, Kaleigh Kurtz was benched in favor of Cari Roccaro. Head coach Paul Riley hinted in the post-game presser last weekend that he had been training Roccaro to potentially take over that spot when Abby Erceg left for the World Cup, but this was a week earlier than expected. Unfortunately, the defense was still a disaster in this match as they allowed two goals in the first half and then one in the second.
It took just 12 minutes for Chicago forward Sam Kerr to score the first goal of the match. Roccaro failed to stick with Kerr when she took a pass from Yuki Nagasato, but Kerr took a bad shot right at goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. Normally that wouldn’t lead to a goal...but this was one of those times when a shot right at the keeper worked. It went through Rowland’s arms, bounced off her chest, and went right into the back of the net.
The Red Stars stayed in control of the game for a few minutes, but then Lynn Williams came through in a big way.
The pass into the box was perfect from defender Merritt Mathias, and Williams was able to beat her mark.
Eight minutes later the Red Stars would get back on top. Kerr flicked a ball on with her head, and it was collected by Michele Vasconcelos. She dribbled centrally, and for some reason Mathias and Erceg took a step back away from her. Feeling the space, Vasconcelos took the shot and it slipped into the left side of goal past the outstretched arm of Rowland. After hitting the post once more, the Courage entered the locker room trailing Chicago 2-1.
The second half was just short of miserable. The Courage had a ton of possession, but there were very few times when they seemed dangerous. The one shot on goal that actually tested Chicago goalkeeper Emily Boyd came in the 72nd minute when the ball was bouncing around in the box. Debinha was able to get a head on the ball, but Boyd stuck her hand out and directed the ball out of the frame of goal.
In the end, the Courage were just haphazardly flailing forward, and they ended up conceding in stoppage time to go down 3-1 after Kerr’s second goal. Amazingly, according to the official stats, Chicago had just three shots on goal, all of which found the back of the net. Now that’s a bad defensive performance. North Carolina drops to fourth place in the standings, and they have to take on Utah Royals FC at home next Sunday. Utah is the only team in the league that NC has never beaten.