North Carolina Courage vs Reign FC: A power struggle emerges in Cary
Kristen Hamilton, the key player of this Courage team (photo: NCC website)

It was a fun match the one we witness at Cary on Saturday afternoon when the Reign FC visited the North Carolina Courage.

North Carolina is recovering its old self after finding in Kristen Hamilton the player they needed to connect with its forwards and finish its chances. Nonetheless, The Reign is proving that they are one of the best teams this season and, after winning over Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park with a goal by Celia Jiménez, their confidence was on a high.

Hamilton continues to impress

Reign had two great chances they should've put in the back in the net before the 20th minute. One in the feet of Ifeoma Onumonu that carried the ball on the left flank and sent the cross. The Courage defense blocked the shot of Shea Groom but Beverly Yanez collected the second ball and shot to see it blocked again. The other chance was created by Groom that sent the ball to Yanez from the right flank but she skied it over the bar.

The Courage found the goal two minutes after that Hamilton run through the middle and passed the ball to a running Lynn Williams. Hamilton leaked a pass to the forward and she shot the ball past Casey Murphy to put the Courage one up at the 21st minute.

After the goal, the Courage took control of the ball and the field, creating different chances mostly through Debinha and Williams.

Groom was subbed off early in the match, in the 41st minute, and Maegan Kelly took her place. Groom twisted her ankle early on the match and that was the reason the coach Vladko Andonovski took that decission. Kelly had an opportunity a minute after was subbed on but, sadly, sent the ball over the bar.

After that, Debinha had a great opportunity through a long driven shot that almost went inside but ended up outside the goal, kissing the post.

Reign had to make another early substitution after Yanez's injury and put Addison Steiner on the field in the 45+3 minute.

Steph Catley would make everyone in the stadium gasp when her shot from outside the box hit the crossbar immediately after the substitution.

The second half and repercussions

The Reign subbed off Celia Jiménez at the beginning of the second half and put Kristen McNabb on.

Williams almost had her second of the night when Hamilton, again, sent a low pass to her and that left her in a hand to hand against Murphy and the goalkeeper ended up stopping that shot.

The second goal of the night came after a great cross to the second post from Merritt Mathias to Debinha who connected with that ball and finished it with a ninja style.

Debinha celebrates after scoring | Source: isiphotos
Debinha celebrates after scoring | Source: isiphotos

Despite the loss, Reign FC showed they have a good team even in the absence of Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock. Onumonu continues to be a great presence in the attack and Bethany Balcer, who was unusually quiet in that match, can be reliable too. Nonetheless this season has been terrible for the team regarding injuries and we'll see how the coach and the squad deals with this.

Debinha came back in her best form after the World Cup and she's the best players for the Courage nowadays. Williams showed her bite and the ability to attrat the defense with her speed and is making again her well timed assists.

The Courage now is the leader of the season and is showing they have no intentions of slowing down. The results they had obtained in the last few weeks makes us think they're going to be unstoppable once they recover their US international players.

Lineups

NCC (4-4-2): Stephanie Labbé; Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg ©, Kaleigh Kurtz, Merritt Mathias; Debinha (Lauren Milliet, 90+1’), Denise O’Sullivan, Cari Roccaro (Meredith Speck, 80’), McCall Zerboni; Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton (Leah Pruitt, 76’)
 
Subs not used: Katelyn Rowland, McKenzie Meehan, Shannon Horgan, Julia Spetsmark,

RFC (4-3-3): Casey Murphy; Steph Catley, Lauren Barnes ©, Megan Oyster, Theresa Nielsen; Beverly Yanez (Addison Steiner, 45+3’), Celia Jimenez Delgado (Kristen McNabb, 46’), Morgan Proffitt; Ifeoma Onumonu, Bethany Balcer, Shea Groom (Maegan Kelly, 41’)

Subs not used:  Kiersten Dallstream, Erin Yenney, Christen Westphal, Lydia Williams

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