This just in; the North Carolina Courage are currently not good at soccer. Whether it’s a bafflingly poor decision making of the goalkeeper or the inept finishing of the forwards, you can count on being disappointed if you tune in for a Courage game these days. The Courage have only been in North Carolina for two and a quarter seasons at this point, and we’ve been extremely blessed with long stretches of great soccer performances. Right now, though, the team is bad.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, let’s talk about the game.
The worst first half in the history of ever
For the first 45 minutes, the Courage were just wandering around the field. Goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland was erratic in her play. Sometimes she came out when there was no chance of getting to the ball, and other times she sat back and waited for no reason.
Inside the first ten minutes, it was clear that Reign FC was going to have their way. They had a couple shots from close in that were blocked by defenders, and forward Darian Jenkins was running circles around the defense. She wasn’t able to get a goal or assist, but she was constantly beating defenders on the dribble.
Then, in the 13th minute, the defense was really broken.
You can clearly see that the initial mistake is on Rowland. Her decision to come out and then not make contact with the ball set the defense out of whack. They had a chance to recover, but it was a great cross sent in by Kristen McNabb and a perfect header by Bethany Balcer. Rowland probably couldn’t have saved the shot, but I still wish she had tried.
Just four minutes later it was another chance for the Reign. Jess Fishlock took a free kick from the left, and it went right to Rowland...who dropped it. The defense was able to clear the ball away, but not before RFC got a shot in that was blocked.
On the other end of the pitch, Lynn Williams and Leah Pruitt struggled to get shots off. It seemed like they should have been able to test Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy, but they consistently hesitated and missed chances. Kristen Hamilton, in particular, looked to pass in the box far too often.
But the second half was a little better
Things generally went better in the second half. McCall Zerboni played all over the field, and she was constantly a thorn in the side of the Reign midfield. Denise O’Sullivan was generally efficient, although she wasn’t always great at finding players with her passes.
Even when the Reign weren’t hitting the ball on target, Rowland was trying to score anyways.
The Reign spent most of the second half with 11 players behind the ball. They played an extremely low block, and it worked very well. While the Courage were able to control the ball in the midfield, they could never find a quality chance to score. It was a slow, plodding second half, with a ton of passing taking place between the Courage centerbacks.
As the half wore on, the probing attacks started to find a little more success. Around the 70th minute, Merritt Mathias was broken open on the right side of goal by a pass from Heather O’Reilly, but Mathias chose to take a shot instead of passing to the two forwards at the top of the box. Murphy got low, and the shot didn’t challenge her.
Then it was time for another goalkeeping disaster!
That shouldn’t have happened. Erceg is completely prepared to play the ball back to Rowland, but she has to hesitate because she looks up and sees that the goalkeeper is right next to her! And then Rowland takes a half kick? And Shea Groom scores against no goalie.
After going down two goals the Courage really started trying. After a stretch of one free kick, three corners, and a throw in from the left corner, Jaelene Hinkle played a ball in that found the head of Abby Erceg and the Courage were on the board. If only we weren’t down two goals.
Mathias even tried to win the game in the dying seconds, but her shot from distance pinged off the crossbar.
With this 2-1 loss, the Courage have now had two draws and two losses in their last four games. They’ve been outscored 6-3 in that time. It’s been a bad four games. Next weekend, the North Carolina Courage will travel to face off against the Orlando Pride. Orlando has just one point this season, so hopefully this will be a chance for North Carolina to pick up three points and get their mojo back. This team won’t be this bad for long, but I’d like to see a little more experimentation.