North Carolina Courage escape FC Kansas City with a 1-0 win

A strong defensive effort by FC Kansas City ends in the 86th minute as Lynn Williams gets the game-winning goal.

North Carolina Courage escape FC Kansas City with a 1-0 win
Lynn Williams scores the game-winning goal in the 86th minute | Photo: North Carolina Courage -
FC Kansas City
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North Carolina Courage
FC Kansas City: Nicole Barnhart; Brittany Taylor, Becky Sauerbrunn ©, Yael Averbuch, Becca Moros; Desiree Scott, Christina Gibbons; Maegan Kelly (Shea Groom, 46’), Lo’eau LaBonta (Alexa Newfield, 72’), Katie Bowen; Sidney Leroux (Brittany Ratcliffe, 77’)
North Carolina Courage: Katelyn Rowland; Taylor Smith, Abby Erceg ©, Abby Dahlkemper, Jaelene Hinkle; Sam Mewis, McCall Zerboni; Kristen Hamilton (Makenzy Doniak, 81’), Debinha (Denise O’Sullivan, 65’), Ashley Hatch (Jess McDonald, 69’), Lynn Williams
SCORE: NC: Lynn Williams (Jess McDonald, 86’)
INCIDENTS: KC: Lo’eau LaBonta, 45’ (yellow card)

No rain or extreme heat created any delays this time around as FC Kansas City and the North Carolina Courage took the field on a Thursday night to make up for the July 22nd NWSL matchup, which was suspended in the 39th minute due to severe weather in the KC area on that night.

For 86 minutes, FC Kansas City frustrated the Courage with a strong defensive effort, even though the North Carolina side had the edge on shots, 28-6, causing shots to go wide or saved by veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who entered the game with 41 saves inside the box. In the end, however, Lynn Williams scored her 5th goal of the season to give the Courage their 11th win of the season and allow them to take a four-point lead over second place Chicago Red Stars.

Barnhart and Rowland Kept It Close

In the first half, both goalkeepers were easily tested, and for the Courage's Katelyn Rowland, her first major save came in the 12th minute when a pass from New Zealand international Katie Bowen set up Maegan Kelly to take a shot outside the box. In the 16th minute, FC Kansas City again tried to get first on the board. This time, Brittany Taylor passed a through ball into the box where forward Sydney Leroux was making a run. The play forced Rowland to come off her line for the save. 

Katelyn Rowland makes two crucial saves in the first half | Photo: Amy Kontras - ISI Photos
Katelyn Rowland makes two crucial saves in the first half | Photo: Amy Kontras - ISI Photos

Into the 26th minute, FC Kansas City built play by a few series of passes near the Courage goal box. Bowen to Lo'eau LaBonta to Christina Gibbons who found Canadian international Desiree Scott. From a distance, Scott blazed the ball towards the upper right-hand corner, but Rowland made the diving save.

On the other end, a minute later, the Courage earned a corner kick. Abby Dahlkemper's service found Abby Erceg whose header found Kristen Hamilton. Hamilton had enough space to take a shot, but it deflected off McCall Zerboni. The deflection landed in front of Williams, who took a shot, but it went over the crossbar. All the time, Barnhart was at the ready.

After 45 minutes, neither side gave up a goal, and the game remained scoreless.

Courage Determined

The Courage returned for the second half creating plenty of opportunities after outshooting the Blues 18-3 in the first half. In the 47th minute, Ashley Hatch sent a ball into space that found Williams. The North Carolina forward took on double coverage by Yael Averbuch and Becky Sauerbrunn for a shot, but her effort went wide to the right. Ten minutes later, Jaelene Hinkle's pass to Williams' led to an attempted header that again went wide.

As the Courage continued to press, Sam Mewis, wide open, ripped a shot in the 63rd minute after a Williams pass at the top of the box. Mewis' shot also went wide. The Courage, though they pressed, could not shoot on goal and found many of their shots to go wide, including a Jess McDonald shot in the 74th minute.

But in the 86th minute, after a turnover by 77th-minute substitute Brittany Ratcliffe at midfield, the Courage capitalized as Taylor Smith took the ball up the right flank, beating Scott and Becca Moros along the way, and sent a cross into the box to Williams. All Williams had to do was beat Barnhart's reach into the near post for the game-winning goal.

With time winding down, FCKC had one final opportunity to deny the Courage's win. In the 89th minute, Gibbons had a chance to equalize with a one-time volley that just missed the goal wide.

The Courage held on into the final minutes of stoppage time to gain their second straight win and remain as the top team in the NWSL. FC Kansas City dropped only their second loss at home but saw their winless streak extend to nine games.

Full Stats here, courtesy of FC Kansas City.