The North Carolina Courage won their fourth game in a row and overtook first place with the win. It has been an long, strange arc without the USWNT players on the field. The Courage initially were simply bad. The goalkeeping was bad. The defense was bad. The midfield was bad. The forwards were bad. That was the script for the first five games, but then over the last four games the team has suddenly looked just like normal.
Completely dominating the Reign
After many weeks of mediocre play, it finally looked like the Courage put things together tonight. The defense, while far from perfect, really only allowed two good chances on frame for Reign FC. The fullbacks played beautifully both offensively and defensively, but Kaleigh Kurtz was still a weak link defensively. She was consistently beaten by Ifeoma Onumonu, but luckily the team wasn’t penalized for it.
Apart from a few scary moments there, the Courage pretty clearly dominated the game. The Courage midfield was able to control the game despite the press from Reign FC occasionally disrupting buildup. The forwards looked very dangerous, and in a sightly different world where played were one step away from their true position we might have gotten three or four more goals. The Courage had 10 shots on goal while the Reign had just one.
The first goal came about halfway through the first half when Kristen Hamilton, who we interviewed last week, played a perfect slip ball to Lynn Williams. Surprisingly, Williams was actually able to finish her clear chance on goal, and the Courage got up 1-0. Williams would be presented with two nearly identical opportunities later in the match, but she was denied by Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy.
The second goal of the match was vintage Courage. Merritt Mathias drove down the right side of the pitch and sent in a beautiful cross to the back post. Debinha flew in past her defender and kicked out at the ball in the middle of her jump. Murphy was almost able to make the save, but the near post shot was just too perfect. Mathias made a similar play later in the match and took the shot herself, but it was parried away by Murphy.
One thing that really played into North Carolina’s hands were injuries sustained by the Reign. By the time the whistle blew to start the second half, the Reign were forced to put three new players on the field Any time a team loses three starters in one half of soccer, you’re gonna have a bad time...and that’s exactly was the Reign had tonight. A bad time. Luckily, we aren’t Reign fans here at Dirty South Soccer, so we had a great night as we deposed the Reign and stole first place. Let’s go, Courage!