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NC Courage vs Utah Royals Preview: A third NWSL Shield is within grasp

The Courage head into this weekend in pole position.

SOCCER: JUN 29 NWSL - NC Courage at Washington Spirit Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A controversial win against the Houston Dash on Tuesday night follows the North Carolina Courage into this weekend’s match up against playoff hopefuls Utah Royals FC. The Royals themselves did not play their midweek game against Reign FC due to poor weather conditions so they may be fresher than the visitors tonight.

Mathias’ injury leaves a hole in the backline

The Courage received a big blow this past week as scans revealed that Merritt Mathias will now be out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury. The injury came during the match against the Dash and now leaves North Carolina without their star running back. Mathias has been in great form for the Courage especially since July and her presence will be missed by the Courage starting tonight.

North Carolina Courage v Sky Blue FC
Mathias is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines
Getty Images

It’s unsure yet who will be filling in for Mathias at this point but despite her absence, the Courage still have a formidable backline. Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg and Jaelene Hinkle should be all set to start this weekend against Utah and try to win the NWSL Shield in front of their home fans. If Christen Press and Vero Boquete are still unavailable to play, that will make the defense’s job that much easier as well.

The forwards are scoring for fun

After a slow start and middle to her season, Lynn Williams is rediscovering the form that saw her not only help the Courage to two NWSL Shield and NWSL Championships, but also a handful of USWNT call ups. Williams now has five goals in five games and will look to keep adding to that total as her team heads into the playoffs. Crystal Dunn and Jessica McDonald have also been in top form but it’s the performances of Kristen Hamilton that have been the biggest story. After her goal against the Portland Thorns, Hamilton now has nine goals this season. Her performances have been so good that she was called up to the national team in the recent friendlies. Hamilton is a great asset to have on the bench as the Courage look to win another NWSL Shield by beating Utah tomorrow.

SOCCER: AUG 11 NWSL - NC Courage at Portland Thorns FC
Kristen Hamilton has been immense this season
Getty Images

Behind these attackers has been supplier-in-chief Debinha. The Brazilian returned from the World Cup and seemingly found another level in her play. With six goals and six assists, Debinha has shown just how much her game has improved and she will look to keep that going over the next few weeks. She, along with the afore mentioned strikers can cause any backline fits, even one as stingy as Utah’s. If they all play as well as they can, North Carolina will secure their third consecutive NWSL Shield.