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 North Carolina Courage

Preview of Courage at Angel City FC

April 20, 2024 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)
North Carolina Courage News Release


LOS ANGELES - The North Carolina Courage make their second road trip of the 2024 NWSL regular season as they visit Angel City FC this Sunday, April 21, with a 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 PT) kickoff at BMO Stadium. The match will air on CBS Sports Network with Aly Trost Martin and Lori Lindsey on the call.

The Courage are 3W-1L-0D through the first month of the season, good for the team's best start since a 4-0-0 beginning to the 2018 campaign. They've put together back-to-back clean sheet home wins against both the defending NWSL Champions and Shield runners-up while leading the entire NWSL in both goal differential (+6) and expected goals (8.05).

Staying true to the identity of 2023, the Courage again lead the NWSL in passing accuracy (82.65%), successful passes (1,705), and possession (58.21%). They've now built upon that to add the danger in the final third by creating 10 chances through four matches, which ranks third in the league. For perspective, the 2023 Courage created 36 chances in 22 league matches and that was with league MVP Kerolin Nicoli, who is working her way back from a torn ACL.

Ashley Sanchez has been as good as advertised, if not better. She ranks third in the league in chances created with 11 while contributing to a goal in three straight matches, the longest stretch by a Courage player since Tess Boade in September of 2022. Her 29 passes played into the box rank sixth in the league and she's fifth in successful passes ending in the final third with 50. She also ranks third in completed dribbles: sequences in which a player dribbles around at least one defender and scores or passes successfully. Sanchez has been the engine of the offense, driving the attack for herself and the rotation of pieces around her.

One of those attacking options, Tyler Lussi, had a goal and assist in the 2-0 win over Portland. It was the third time in her career with multiple goal contributions in a single match and first since 2019. Haley Hopkins found the second goal, her second of her sophomore season. The coaching staff has praised the former Virginia Cavalier for her growth and development from year one to year two, and the results are showing early.

The Courage back line has been tasked with marking two of the best true strikers in the league in back-to-back weeks in Esther González and Sophia Smith. The two combined for one shot on target. The work of Kaleigh Kurtz and Malia Berkely in the middle has been brilliant and the versatility, tenacity, and aggression of the wingers Feli Rauch and Ryan Williams are the perfect compliment.

Williams is off to an incredible start to 2024 and may be one of the most underrated players in the league. After a breakout 2023, her 2024 90-minute averages in successful passes, interceptions, passing accuracy and possessional passes are all the highest of any season in her career. Her willingness to carry the ball high up the field and be dangerous in the final third is an exciting development and she seems to be playing with a confidence that perfectly blends a calm yet ferocious presence.

Angel City, meanwhile, has all the tools to be a real title contender in 2024. They added the younger Thompson sister, Gisele, to the defense, bolstered their midfield with Amandine Henry - who arrived last summer buy played in just six matches - and traded for veteran Rocky Rodríguez this offseason. They also acquired NWSL Rookie of the Year finalist Messiah Bright from Orlando to add to their front line.

Despite the added firepower, the third-year club is off to a slow start at 1W-2L-1D After a home loss to league newcomer Bay FC in the season opener, Angel City has spent the last three match weeks on the road. Now, they return home looking to build off their first win of 2024, a 1-0 win at previously undefeated Chicago last week.

They are in the top five in the league in both shots and chances created, but only three teams have scored fewer than their four goals. On the defensive side, they have conceded six goals and, according to Opta, half of those came from an error leading to goal.

Don't be fooled by the choppy start, Angel City has the ability to be as dangerous as any team in the NWSL when they put the pieces together. Returning to the raucous environment that is BMO Stadium for the first time in a month will give them a burst of energy that the Courage must find a way to match to get a result on the road.

Cross-country travel is never easy, but this 2024 Courage squad has shown tenacity and a will to win so far in 2024. Fans should expect a high-octane 90 minutes this Sunday and another test for this Courage team that continues to build and grow together every week.

NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE at ANGEL CITY FC

Sunday, April 21 | 7:30 p.m. ET | BMO Stadium

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