Courage Are Unbeaten In the Last 14 Challenge Cup Matches
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
The North Carolina Courage scored six goals from six different goalscorers in the second half to notch a 6-0 victory over Washington Spirit at WakeMed Soccer Park in the UKG Challenge Cup on Saturday evening.
Washington Spirit’s Ashley Hatch nearly found the back of the net in the 9th minute after her shot drifted wide of the near post.
North Carolina Courage midfielder Narumi Miura hit a volley after controlling the ball with her chest in the 35th minute and her effort glanced wide of the far post.
Washington Spirit forward Lena Silano struck a curling effort in the 58th minute that was saved by North Carolina Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland.
North Carolina Courage forward Brittany Ratcliffe was able to find the back of the net in the 61st minute after she came inside and cut back outside to make space for herself. Ratcliffe struck a low effort that trickled past the outstretched hand of Washington Spirit goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Frankie Tagliaferri was able to double the Courage’s advantage in the 65th minute after the ball fell to her in the box and her effort was able to find the side of the net.
Amber Brooks nearly hit the target in the 68th minute after she struck a half volley glanced just wide of the far post.
North Carolina Courage forward Olivia Wingate entered the match as a substitute in the 68th minute to replace goalscorer Brittany Ratcliffe.
Wingate made an immediate impact as she found the back of the net in the 70th minute when she played through on goal by Tess Boade.
Wingate turned from goalscorer to provider in the 72nd minute when she played a ball across the face of goal that found the feet of Tess Boade. Boade was able to tap the ball home at the back post to extend the lead to 4-0.
North Carolina Courage midfielder Brianna Pinto added a fifth goal with a one time volley that could end up being a contender for goal of the UKG Challenge Cup.
The North Carolina Courage were able to get numbers forward in bunches during the 83rd minute and the ball fell to Narumi Miura in front of goal. Miura was able to tap the ball home to add a sixth goal.
The Courage were able to win the match and break a record of scoring over 5+ goals in a Challenge Cup game for the first time in league history.
Courage head coach Sean Nahas believes the team were able to be more incisive and ruthless with their finishing in the second half which led to six goals for six different goalscorers.
“Yeah there was no message,” Nahas said. “These are the things we’re doing really, really well and we’re putting ourselves in great spots. One thing I told Frankie [Frankie Tagliaferri] is you need to shoot. The first thing I say when I’m in the locker room, you can put yourself in great spots, but you try to be too cute. Trying to make everything perfect. So just shoot the ball.”
Nahas added it was also easier to secure a clean sheet due to the fact the team was good in possession of the ball which helped the team not have to defend as much.
“Nathan was telling me in the middle of the first half out of possession we’ve been really, really good,” Nahas said. I said well we’ve also been really really good in possession so that’s why we haven’t had to defend as much.”
Brianna Pinto spoke about the team’s defensive performance throughout the match and the hard work that went into securing a clean sheet.
“I think we wanted to work equally as behind the ball as we do in front of goal,” Pinto said. “We’re a team that works both sides and I think we’re gonna push and we’re going to support each other when we get beat.”
Brittany Ratcliffe believes the winning mentality stems from the environment in team’s training sessions.
“I notice that all of us always talk about the training, because obviously we play games once a weekend, but we’re practicing every single day of the week,” Ratcliffe said. “And, I think it’s important to be in an environment that prepares you for game days, whether you’re starting, whether you’re subbing in, or whether you’re not playing at all.”
North Carolina Courage will resume action when they take on Orlando Pride on July 29th in the UKG Challenge Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park at 7PM ET.
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.