Courage Notch Third Consecutive Victory and Clean Sheet in a Match Filled With Chances for Both Teams
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
Kerolin’s second half goal handed the North Carolina Courage a close 1-0 victory over Angel City FC on Wednesday night at WakeMed Soccer Park. The win marked the team’s third consecutive victory as the Courage continued their push to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Kerolin nearly opened the scoring in the 2nd minute when Debinha started a quick counter attack and played Kerolin through on goal. Kerolin was eventually left one-on-one and Angel City goalkeeper DiDi Haracic pulled off an extraordinary kick save to keep the match level.
Courage midfielder Denise O’Sullivan struck a rising shot in the 26th minute and Haracic was able to make a leaping reaction save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Debinha came close to finding the back of the net in the 45th minute when a deflection fell to her in the box and she nearly got the ball past Haracic. Angel City midfielder Tyler Lussi was able to clear the ball and relieve pressure after chaos ensued in the box.
In the 48th minute, Angel City Jun Endo found herself in the box after an incisive attacking move from the team that ended with McCaskill playing the final pass. Endo took a first time effort at goal that glanced just wide of the far post.
A sweeping attacking move from the Courage in the 54th minute saw Diana Ordoñez and Debinha link up down the left hand side. Debinha was able to play a cross into the box for Kerolin and Kerolin was able to finish towards the near post to give the Courage a 1-0 lead.
Debinha had another chance on goal in the 61st minute when her effort narrowly sliced over the crossbar and nearly doubled the Courage’s advantage.
The ball fell down to Kerolin on the edge of the 18 yard box in the 69th and she hit an outside the foot effort that nearly curved slightly past the far post.
Merritt Mathias was brought on as a substitute for Diana Ordoñez in the 77th minute. Mathias made an immediate impact in the 79th minute when she hit a lofted long ball into the box for Debinha. Debinha was able to get her head and Haracic made a great diving save at her near post to parry the shot away.
In the 89th minute, Debinha dribbled into the box and took a shot towards the near post from a difficult angle. Her shot beat Haracic at her near post, but ricocheted off the post.
Debinha almost converted another chance after she was able to intercept a misplaced pass from Clarisse Le Bihan in the third minute of stoppage time. Her low shot forced Haracic into a kick save and Debinha’s subsequent effort on goal was blocked by Megan Reid.
The match ended as a clean sheet for the Courage in the midst of plenty of attacking chances for both teams throughout the match.
Courage midfielder Denise O’Sullivan believes the team came out with better energy and organization in the second half which helped in multiple phases of the game.
“I am delighted to get the three points,” O’ Sullivan said. “The first half was a bit sloppy. I think we came out a bit flat. We came back out in the second half with more energy, more composed on the ball, and better defensively organized. I think when you are defensively organized everything else is a lot easier.”
O’Sullivan’s family from Ireland also attended her match for the first time. It was a moment of delight for the Irish international who recently qualified for the 2023 World Cup.
“I have played here now for six years and this is the first time they’ve been over here,” O’Sullivan said. “My mom was buzzing at the end of the game that we won. I was really proud to see them at the end.”
Courage right back Ryan Williams notched the player of the match award and has been in a run of good form throughout recent months. She attributed increased confidence to receiving more minutes in matches and her teammates
“I think just getting more minutes has allowed me to be more confident,” Williams said. “Playing with the teammates I have gives me a lot more confidence. In practice to games, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. The girls tell me we believe in you. It’s very much a team effort and we’ve been playing really well together.”
Courage head coach Sean Nahas was pleased with the team’s performance and the team getting a clean sheet. The Courage have conceded only one goal in the past three matches and Nahas is satisfied with the work the team has done when they don’t have the ball.
“When we were hemorrhaging goals, especially in the two Kansas City games we knew we had to do something,” Nahas said. “Credit to the players, they’ve really taken on to some of the spaces we’ve wanted to take up. In years in the past, we usually play with our outside backs bombing forward. We structure it a little differently so that we have the wide channels filled in. I am extremely proud of the group. The fact that we have gone from bottom of the table to where we are now, I think the group deserves a lot of credit.”
The Courage will return to action on Saturday, September 17th for their match against OL Reign at WakeMed Soccer Park. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be available for streaming on Paramount+.
Dakwa holds a BS in Journalism from Elon University. He writes about North Carolina professional soccer for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him at @JDakwa on Twitter.