North Carolina Courage announce final roster for 2018
The Courage players pose at a team meet-and-greet before travelling to Richmond for their final preseason game. | Photo: @TheNCCourage

With the first National Women's Soccer League game of 2018 just five days away the final cuts have been made for each of the nine teams in the league. The 2018 Roster Rules require that each team rosters between 18 and 20 players with some exceptions made this season. Any players selected during the Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft do not count against the 20-player maximum for the team. The North Carolina Courage selected defenders Allysha Chapman, an allocated Canadian player, and Julie King in the draft, so those two players will be permitted to remain on the roster without taking up a slot. King has not yet joined the team because she is dealing with an injury.

A mix of old and new

The rest of the squad is primarily players from the 2017 season with a healthy mix of new players. Four of the six forwards are returning from 2017. United States women's national team player Lynn Williams returns with Jess McDonald and Kristen Hamilton. Darian Jenkins was selected by the Courage during the 2017 NWSL College Draft, but she missed the entire season with an injury and will be joining the active roster for the first time in 2018. New additions to the front line include USWNT forward Crystal Dunn and 2018 NWSL College Draft selection Frannie Crouse. The Courage selected Crouse in the first round of the draft.

The entire midfield group is returning for 2018. While USWNT player Sam Mewis is still nursing an injury and will miss the opening game of the season, McCall Zerboni will anchor a midfield that includes international attacking midfielders Debinha (Brazil) and Denise O'Sullivan (Ireland). Elizabeth Eddy and Merideth Speck are also returning for 2018 after Eddy spent most of 2017 injured and Speck made occasional appearances. Makenzy Doniak is included on the roster, but she is out for the season after tearing her ACL on the first day of preseason training.

The defense had a minor shake-up when right back Taylor Smith was traded, along with forward Ashley Hatch, to the Washington Spirit for the rights to Crystal Dunn. Three members of the defense will remain the same, Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg and Jaelene Hinkle all return for 2018, but they will be joined by four new players. King and Chapman come from Boston, Merritt Mathias joined the team after a trade with the Seattle Reign FC and projects to start in Smith's right back spot. The surprise addition to the squad is rookie defender Kaleigh Kurtz. Kurtz came to the Courage as a non-roster invitee but must have made a large enough impression to earn a place on the final roster. Yuri Kawamura is still rehabbing from her 2017 ACL injury and does not currently count against the roster limit.

The two goalkeepers, Sabrina D'Angelo and Katelyn Rowland, will be returning to continue their goalkeeper competition in 2018. 

Five Courage players pose with a flag before their preseason game at City Stadium against the Washington Spirit. | Photo: @TheNCCourage
Five Courage players pose with a flag before their preseason game at City Stadium against the Washington Spirit. | Photo: @TheNCCourage

Rookies find it hard to earn a spot

In the sixth year of the NWSL a particular problem has arisen for most teams. The Courage had one player leave to play in the Netherlands, one player retire and the team came out even in trades, meaning that they had just two roster spots to fill in 2018. Darian Jenkins, 2017's first-round pick had been with the team for a year and easily secured one of those spots. When Doniak went down, that once again left two roster spots to be split amongst about ten players new to the team. Frannie Crouse and Kaleigh Kurtz squeezed in, but that left the other four Courage draft picks, Becca Rasmussen, Morgan Reid, Carlin Hudson, and Ryan Williams stuck in limbo. The Courage still own the rights to those players and they will continue to train with the team, but they didn't make the final roster. Hopefully a 2019 expansion will allow this new talent to find the field without spending a year or longer away from game play.

Full roster and key

Goalkeepers (2): Sabrina D’Angelo (FED-CAN), Katelyn Rowland

Defenders (8): Abby Erceg (INTL-NZL), Abby Dahlkemper (FED-USA), Jaelene Hinkle, Merritt Mathias, Allysha Chapman (FED-CAN/DD), Kaleigh Kurtz, Julie King (DD), Yuri Kawamura (INTL-JPN/D45)

Midfielders (7): McCall Zerboni, Samantha Mewis (FED-USA), Denise O’Sullivan (INTL-IRL), Debinha (INTL-BRA), Elizabeth Eddy, Meredith Speck, Makenzy Doniak (SEI)

Forwards (6): Lynn Williams (FED-USA), Crystal Dunn (FED-USA), Jessica McDonald, Darian Jenkins, Kristen Hamilton, Frannie Crouse


FED - Federation Player

INTL – International Roster Spot

D45 - 45-Day Disabled List

SEI - Season Ending Injury List

DD – Dispersal Draft