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The OSC Interview: North Carolina Courage Head Coach Paul Riley

by Fran Stuchbury
April 4, 2018 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)

OurSports Central Contributor Fran Stuchbury spoke to North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley after the team's 1-0 victory over Sky Blue FC on Saturday. Riley is entering his third season with the National Women's Soccer League team. In 2016 when the franchise was the Western New York Flash, it won the NWSL Championship. In 2014 and 2015 he was head coach of the NWSL Portland Thorns. In 2010 and 2011 Riley served as coach of the Philadelphia Independence of Women's Professional Soccer. He also coached several other professional teams including the Long Island Rough Riders from 1997 to 2003, Long Island Fury from 2006-2009, and New York Fury from 2012 till 2013.

Fran Stuchbury: How did you feel with how your team played overall in this game?

Paul Riley: I think at this time of the season you are trying to get a little bit better. We got better from last week till this week. It's more about performance than results at this point of the season. I think the next two weeks that we are off, it gives them a chance to get their legs back and settle in better.

FS: The Courage dominated so many scoring opportunities with 23 shots and finally got a goal by forward Jessica McDonald in extra time. Sky Blue FC only had three shots.

PR: We didn't give away a lot of chances. We have to get better in front of the goal. We know that, the forwards know that. It's a work in progress; we will work everyday on it. I know it's something we can get better at. That's the great thing about this team: they want to get better and they want to grow. We need to score more than one goal. We can't keep doing this every week.

FS: Was it a good decision for this team to move from Western New York after the 2016 season to North Carolina?

PR: To be honest it was a great move for the club, a great move for the players. I feel North Carolina Courage are a young team that can grow together. This is my third year with the team; there is great consistency with this group. I feel we are a ways away from being a great team. I think another year, year and a half from now, this team could be very good. Right now, we are building and have a lot of good pieces in place.

FS: How was your experience as head coach with the Portland Thorns in 2014 and 2015? They have the best attendance in the NWSL.

PR: Portland is a special place. I guess we want it to be like that here, too, we want to build and get to that place. With that comes pressure for the players, too. They are in a pressure environment with 20,000 fans every week. Our goal is to be Portland; every team in this league wants to be Portland. They are just amazing, an amazing club with great ownership and management and they have good players, too.

FS: When I lived in Pennsylvania I followed the Women's Professional Soccer Philadelphia Independence closely, a team which you coached the 2010 and 2011 seasons and took them to the WPS Championship game both years. How was that experience?

PR: I spoke to Lori Lindsey on the phone since she was doing commenting for the Courage game. She played with me when I coached the Independence and we were talking about old times, the great times we had in Philadelphia. Nine of my players in Philadelphia ended up joining the NWSL FC Kansas City for the first NWSL season in 2013. If you look at that time it took a few years to build into a championship team, and they won two NWSL titles in 2014 and 2015. I feel we are still in the young stage and building a championship team.

FS: How do the two leagues - the NWSL and WPS - compare?

PR: I think the NWSL is getting closer to the WPS. The WPS was the best league women ever had. We had a lot of the top foreign soccer players in WPS. If the NWSL increases the pay for foreign players, we will get more of them to play in the NWSL. That is the key to growing the league, getting more foreign players. The American players are getting better and deeper. We will have some expansion next season. The NWSL is ready for expansion. We have enough soccer players to add another two to three teams.

FS: For people who haven't been to a North Carolina Courage game. Why should they check it out?

PR: We're fun to watch as we saw today. We created a lot of scoring chances; we're athletic. We have a lot of flexible players in our lineup. When we look at our team, there are a lot of pieces that can do a lot of things. More than anything we are fun to watch. We average 20 shots a game, we just need to get a little better in the front of the goal.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.