North Carolina Courage win a thriller in Orlando
Jess McDonald was the star for the Courage against Orlando | Source: ISI Photos via nwslsoccer.com

North Carolina Courage win a thriller in Orlando

Fans at Orlando City Stadium witnessed seven goals between the Courage and the Orlando Pride on Wednesday evening.

dzukai07
Kudzi Musarurwa
Orlando PrideHarris; Edmonds, Krieger, Zadorsky, Pickett (Poliana, min. 78); Kennedy, Van Egmond, Nairn (Weatherholt, min. 74); Marta, Morgan, Ubogagu (Hill, min. 75).
North Carolina CourageRowland; Mathias, Dahlkemper, Erceg, Hinkle; O'Sullivan (Speck, min. 82), Mewis, Zerboni; Debinha (Hamilton, min. 81); McDonald, Dunn.
SCORE0-1, min. 31, McDonald. 1-1, min. 52, Ubogagu. 1-2, min.57, Debinha. 1-3, min. 62, Mewis. 2-3, min. 65, Kennedy. 3-3, min. 83, Hill. 3-4, min. 90, McDonald.
REFEREEChristina Unkel (USA). Yellow Card: Van Egmond (min. 72), Erceg (min. 90+2)

The North Carolina Courage remained unbeaten in the National Women's Soccer League thanks to a goal-filled win against the Orlando PrideJess McDonald led her team from the front with two goals as the Courage sit on top the NWSL standings after ten games.

North Carolina dominate the first half

The potential for goals in this game was evident early on as both sides went for it and troubled the defenders constantly. Crystal Dunn signaled what was in store for those watching the game early on in the ninth minute when her curling effort bounced off the post and away. The ball was then recycled and McDonald got onto the end of a cross by Samantha Mewis but she could not stick it into the net. Ashlyn Harris was the next to deny Dunn in the 22nd minute when after Debinha had sent McDonald through, the Courage forward squared the ball to Dunn who produced a good kick save from Harris to keep the score at 0-0. 

Debinha had another strong game for North Carolina | Source: nccourage.com
Debinha had another strong game for North Carolina | Source: nccourage.com

Harris was powerless to stop the opening goal however as Orlando did not heed the warning signs from earlier on in the game. After McCall Zerboni's effort had been blocked, Orlando failed to clear their lines and McDonald was on hand to stab the ball home from six yards out. Although no other goals came in the first half, North Carolina deserved their lead going into half time as they had been the more dangerous of the two teams and created the better chances.

Goals rain down in the second half

Orlando came out as a different team in the second half as they looked to get themselves back into this match in front of their home crowd. In the 52nd minute, they did just that when Marta found some space and got to the byline before swinging in a low cross that Chioma Ubogagu converted at the near post. Orlando were level and it was a well-earned status at this point in the match. After that, it became a question of which team would score the latest possible goal and thus, secure the three points.

Despite Marta's best efforts, Orlando could not hang on for a point | Source: orlandocitysc.com
Despite Marta's best efforts, Orlando could not hang on for a point | Source: orlandocitysc.com

Alanna Kennedy gave up the ball in her own half in the 57th minute and Debinha was on hand to race onto the loose ball and tuck it past Harris to put the Courage back in front. Mewis then made it three for North Carolina in the 61st minute as she towered above her marker and sent her header on target. The ball bounced off the post and off of Harris before crossing the line. Although Harris clawed the ball back out, it had already crossed the line and the goal was allowed. Kennedy then made up for her previous error in the 64th minute when she rose unmarked to meet Marta's corner and flicked the ball past goalkeeper Katelyn RowlandRachel Hill, who had come in during the second half, then drew Orlando level again when she was at the far post to knock home Marta's cross.

Many would have been forgiven for thinking that would be last that we would see of the goals but Jess McDonald had other ideas. Jaelene Hinkle sent in a hopeful cross towards McDonald who did manage to get her head to the ball. Had Ashlyn Harris stayed on her line, the Courage would not have found the game-winner but Harris was caught in no-mans land and McDonald's header looped into an empty net. Orlando did not deserve to lose this game but they had given North Carolina too many opportunities to score and the away side made them pay in the end.

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