Cary, NC – Despite bad weather, the North Carolina Courage took the field for their first home game against Seattle Reign FC and showed why they are the top ranked team with a solid 2-0 win.
On Saturday, July 8, 2017, the Courage played the third-ranked Seattle at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. Both teams are known for their strong offense so going in, fans were unsure how the game would play out.
If it was going to be a battle of offenses, the Courage decided their best move would be to strike first and fast. In the first half of gameplay, the Courage made 17 goal attempts, many of them led by Lynn Williams, who played her first game coming off of injury.
This rapid attack paid off in the 31st minute, when McCall Zerboni was able to get the ball away from Seattle’s Lauren Barnes. Once the ball was loose, Ashley Hatch was set up for a kick on Seattle’s goal and put numbers on the board, starting the home team off with 1-0.
There was a close call in the 45th minute when Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe intercepted the ball from the Courage’s goalkeeper Kate Rowland. This left Rapinoe open to make a goal attempt from 23 yards away but her kick just skimmed the goalpost and missed, ending the first half of the match.
In the second half, the offense was led mostly by Zerboni as the Courage continued their strategy of hammering Seattle and not giving them time to breathe. This pressure gave Zerboni three perfect chances for a goal, with two in rapid succession in the 59th and 60th minute.
But Zerboni was not able to get her point until the 81st minute when Jessica McDonald hit a header at Seattle’s goal. Rapinoe deflected the ball away off of the line but Zerboni was right there to capitalize. Zerboni knocked the ball back and got her third goal of the season, ending the game with a 2-0 victory.
“There were some great individual performances, but the team performance was excellent. The work rate and the press was great tonight. It was a bit cooler tonight, and it was easier to get the press in tight,” said Courage Head Coach Paul Riley. “We closed them down quickly. We really didn’t give them a lot – even in the second half. It was a good professional performance.”
This was also Rowland’s four shutout goalkeeping performance of the season, making that seven total shutout games for the Courage.
The North Carolina Courage’s next home game is also against Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, August 5, 2017.
Story by staff reports. Photos by Andy Mead.