Match Preview: Courage at Orlando Pride
ORLANDO, Fla. - The North Carolina Courage look to bounce back in their penultimate road match of the regular season when they visit the Orlando Pride on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 7:00 p.m. ET. This will be the second and final meeting of the season between the clubs with the Courage looking to force a split.
Despite coming off a tough home loss, the Courage are in the thick of the playoff race, sitting in eighth place and five points from the last playoff spot with three matches, including a game in hand on some teams ahead, remaining in the regular season.
After a slow start, marred by rescheduled early matches due to Challenge Cup conflicts, COVID issues and more, this completely revamped Courage club has grown together and gotten to their best soccer at the right time. The Courage are tied for most team goals (40) and have the outright assists lead (29) in the NWSL while the defense has come into form too, allowing multiple goals Saturday for the first time since August 28 in Kansas City.
Orlando has been a streaky club all season, starting with results in four of their first six matches, then going winless in June, followed by a seven-match unbeaten streak through July and most of August, and now find themselves on a three-match skid headed into Wednesday night. The Pride have conceded the second-most goals (37) this season, behind only Gotham, whom the Courage face at home this coming Saturday.
NC Courage is tied for the NWSL lead in total goals (40) and goals-per-game (2.11), while holding the outright lead in total assists (29). The Courage have not been shut out in 11 consecutive matches, the longest active streak in the NWSL.
The Courage have 11 goals scored on headers this season, the most among NWSL clubs. They also lead all clubs in overall pass completion at 79.6%.
Fast starts have been a theme for the Courage this season, scoring 17 of their 40 goals within the first 15 minutes of either half. Conversely, 15 of their 33 conceded goals have come in the same time frame.
The Courage are 0-7 when conceding first this season while earning a result in nine of the 12 matches they've struck first.
NC Courage have won four consecutive regular season road games against the Pride, the last three in multi-goal shutouts; the only time in NWSL history a team has posted three consecutive multi-goal, shutout wins against a single opponent.
*Players to Watch, Presented by JubliaRX.com*
North Carolina Courage - #5 Brianna Pinto
Durham native Brianna Pinto has put on a show for her hometown team as of late, playing a pivotal role as a holding midfielder during the Courage's renewed defensive prowess. She's won over 56% of her tackles this season and been a huge piece in the transitional build-up of play: successfully converting 81.3% of her passes, including a stellar 89.5% in the defensive half. She's got a goal and a pair of assists this season, scoring in the first matchup with Orlando back on May 18.
Orlando Pride - #5 Megan Montefusco
Despite a tough season on the defensive end for Orlando, it's hard to imagine where they would be without Megan Montefusco on their back line. She's logged nearly 1600 minutes and won 61.1% of her tackles and 60.6% of duels, posted 62 clearances, intercepted 29 passes and blocked 10 shots while her 79.9% passing accuracy is above the team average. She's proven willing to play physical with nine fouls won and seven conceded with six yellow cards, the most in the NWSL this season.
The North Carolina Courage return to WakeMed Soccer Park for their regular-season home finale against NJ/NY Gotham FC and Fan Appreciation Night, complete with team poster giveaways and a post-match firework show. The match is set for 7:00 p.m. ET and tickets can be purchased online.
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North Carolina Courage defender Merritt Mathias
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