The North Carolina Courage (1-0-1) put on a scoring clinic on Wednesday night as they beat the visiting Orlando Pride (0-2-0) five goals to nil. Orlando initially looked like they would make a game out of it, but North Carolina scored once in the first half and four more times in the second half to seal the victory. The Courage will now have a bye week while Orlando flies to Tacoma, WA to take on Reign FC.
A good start and a collapse from Orlando
The North Carolina Courage opened the game on the front foot. It took about 10 minutes for Orlando to gain any real possession of the ball, but once they had it they kept it going. From the 15th to 35th minute, it looked like the Pride were going to keep the defending champions on the ropes and looked to be at least evenly matched.
In the 45th minute the floodgates opened. Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni blocked the path of Orlando forward and USWNT star Alex Morgan. Morgan turned away and took a heavy touch right into Courage midfielder Crystal Dunn. She took the ball forward, drew the defense in, and then passed the ball to an open Lynn Williams to the right side of goal. Faced up against Orlando goalkeeper Ashlynn Harris, Williams was able to easily slot the ball in for the first goal of the night and her first on the season.
Orlando went into the locker room down one goal after a solid first half, but it felt like they never came back out. In the 55th minute, Williams pressured Orlando defender Alanna Kennedy in the box, and Kennedy tried to clear the ball. Williams was able to stick her foot out and deflect the clear right to the feet of fellow Courage forward Jess McDonald. Not expecting the sudden change of possession, McDonald was able to hit the ball into the far side netting past Harris for the second goal of the night.
In the 70th minute, North Carolina defender Abby Dahlkemper played a short corner to midfielder Sam Mewis. Mewis played the ball into the box, and after a blocked header it was Dunn who pounded the ball into the back of the net to bring the score to 3-0. Seven minutes later, off the exact same set piece play, the ball once again found the feet of Dunn at the top of the six-yard box and she scored her second goal of the game, her third on the season.
The final goal of the game came in the 86th minute. Newly acquired Courage forward Julia Spetsmark collected a pass from Kristen Hamilton at the top of the box. Spetsmark's shot was deflected by an Orlando defender, Harris got a hand on the ball and hit it into the crossbar, but the ball fell down onto her back and rolled into the goal. The goal came in Spetsmark's debut as a Courage player.
The Pride have now been outscored 7-0 in their first two matches to open the season. Thanks to scheduling, the Courage are now at the top of the NWSL league table.