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Match Preview: Courage at San Diego Wave

September 29, 2022 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) - North Carolina Courage News Release


North Carolina Courage on the field
North Carolina Courage on the field
(North Carolina Courage)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - It all comes down to this. After storming from the NWSL cellar with seven wins in their last nine matches, the North Carolina Courage control their own destiny on the final day of the regular season; a win and the Courage are in the NWSL Playoffs (see below for all clinching scenarios). With both a playing style and roster overhaul, the trust in the process has paid off for Sean Nahas' squad and now they look to keep their season going.

Offensively, the firepower has somehow intensified. With six goals last week (all of which impacted by Debinha), the Courage are tied for the league lead in goals (46) and corners won (108) while leading the NWSL in assists (33). Out-scoring their opponents 6-0 last week has led to a +13 goal-differential, which is second in the league. Since finishing week 14 in last place, the Courage have outscored their opponents by 12 goals in nine matches to rocket into playoff contention.

Different front line players have taken turns in the spotlight. Rookie Of The Year candidate Diana Ordóñez's hot streak got the rally started, Kerolin Nicoli continued the fire power with five goals in a four-match stretch and now Debinha has taken the baton, scoring five goals this week to vault to second in the NWSL Golden Boot race.

While the front line has garnered the headlines, everyone has played a role in the possession-based, collaborative passing system North Carolina has installed this season. The team leads the league in total passes and passing percentage and twice last week eclipsed 85% passing accuracy, showing ball skill and vision at every level to connect lines in ways that turn seemingly innocuous possession into scoring chances in a hurry. You can't take your eyes off the field with this team.

Scouting the Wave

It's been a historic year for the SoCal newcomers; becoming the first-ever expansion team to clinch an NWSL playoff spot. While their chances of claiming the NWSL Shield are slim-to-none, a win on Friday would be their 11th, good for at least a tie of the most in the league this season. A draw would guarantee them a home playoff game at the brand new SnapDragon Stadium, which also made history with a sellout crowd in its debut last week, raring to rock again on Friday.

Alex Morgan leads the Golden Boot race with 15 goals this season and Naomi Girma is a top Rookie of the Year contender on the back line after her first-overall selection in the draft to headline the Wave roster. The Wave clinched a playoff berth with a 2-2 draw at Orlando last Saturday thanks to a ferocious late comeback from a two-goal deficit to avert disaster against a Pride side that has already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Last Time Out

The North Carolina Courage ended their home regular season with a bang, and that didn't even include the post-match fireworks, with a 3-0 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC Saturday night in front of 6,376 fans at WakeMed Soccer Park. Debinha continued her run of outstanding play with a hat-trick to lead the Courage attack, the first hat-trick by a Courage player since the 2019 season. The Courage rattled off 22 shots, including 14 on target, held 60% of possession and connected 542 passes for an 86.3% accuracy, the second straight match with a passing accuracy of 85% or higher.

Playoff Scenarios

Courage WIN at SD: Clinch playoff spot... Can clinch 5-seed with HOU loss/draw

Courage DRAW at SD: Clinch with CHI LOSS/DRAW... Will be 6-seed

Courage LOSS at SD: Clinch with CHI/ACFC DRAW... Will be 6-seed

Notables

Debinha was voted NWSL Player of the Week and now has 12 goals on the season, ranking second in the Golden Boot race

The Courage pushed their consecutive match-scoring streak to 13 on Saturday, extending the longest active streak in the NWSL

The Courage have conceded just three goals in their last six matches

The Courage fell in the first meeting of the season, 1-0, in Cary on an Alex Morgan goal in the 41'. The Courage out-shot the Wave 14-8 in the loss.

Players to Watch, presented by JubliaRX.com

North Carolina Courage - #10 Debinha

Who else? The reigning NWSL Player of the Week keeps proving she's World Class. After five goals and an assist last week, she's second in the Golden Boot race and is one of two players in the NWSL with double-digit goals and at least four assists this season. She has proven the ability to score in a variety of ways and her vision and pace, ball skills and touch make her a matchup nightmare. She's just as capable a passer as she is a scorer and her creativity keeps opposing defenses guessing. All eyes, both on the field and in the stands, will be on #10 in white on Friday night.

San Diego Wave - #4 Naomi Girma

If anyone can slow Debinha and the Courage, it's the outstanding centerback Naomi Girma. She's played over 1600 minutes in 18 matches, winning nearly 70% of her duels and 56% of tackles. The former NCAA National Champion at Stanford has recorded 85 clearances, 24 interceptions and blocked 12 shots in her first professional season. She's poised with an 83.3% passing accuracy, including over 91% in her own half and conceded just seven fouls this season. This will be a true strength-on-strength as one of the top offenses in the NWSL tries to solve a young center back that has erupted onto the scene and looks to be a force in the league for years to come.





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North Carolina Courage on the field
North Carolina Courage on the field

  

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