The NC Courage are coming off of a 1-1 draw against the Utah Royals. The home side had a much better showing against Utah than Chicago, so it seems like they’re settling into not having some key players for a while. In some ways, it was a classic Courage performance with 18 shots, but only three went on frame. The lack of shots hitting the target, and Nicole Barnhart having a stellar game, sealed the result on the day.
Seattle trying to start a streak
The Reign are coming off of their first home win of the year in a 2-1 victory of Sky Blue FC. The three points came thanks to a late goal by forward Jodie Taylor. While the points were welcome, Seattle also lost their goalkeeper Michelle Betos for the season. While North Carolina is certainly missing some of their best players due to national team duty, the Reign are no different. The team seems to be feeling the effects of missing Megan Rapinoe - the team was creating chances and had 20 shots in the match, but nobody was putting the ball in the net.
Seattle typically lines up in a 4-3-3 and plays an attacking, possession oriented style. Despite the fact that they’ll have seven players out on international duty, the team can certainly make up for that with their depth. Particularly interesting is Shea Groom who lines up on the right in the front attacking three. Groom plays with an edge to her game and should keep Jaelene Hinkle occupied for the whole game. The team will also see a familiar face as Darian Jenkins looks set to start on the left for the Reign.
North Carolina trying to find more goals
This is a big game for the Courage. It’s a little early to be focused on the table, but North Carolina is sitting in 6th places on 9 points after 6 games. Seattle is below them in the table with 6 points, but has a game in hand. Doing the math, it’s not hard to see that the Reign would stand to gain a lot by forcing a six point swing and cashing in one of the game advantages they hold over a potential playoff opponent in the match.
Of course, things will be a little different roster-wise again. The Courage will be missing Debinha as she has joined Brazil ahead of the World Cup. That will put another question mark in an attacking role for the Courage but opens the door for someone else to claim some starting minutes.
However Paul Riley lines his team up, the Courage will need to contain the Reign while in possession. Riley is fairly ambivalent about keeping possession and seems to be more focused on what the team does when it gets the ball, namely throwing a lot forward to try and create a chance, than he is with having the ball. On the road the play of Kaleigh Kurtz will be especially critical. She’s made progress every game and seems more comfortable since taking over as a starter with Abby Dahlkemper with the USWNT. She’ll need to carry those performances forward if North Carolina is able to take points on the road Monday.
How to watch
Kickoff: 7PM EST, Cheney Stadium - Tacoma, Washington