With the North Carolina Courage ’s starting strikers and the NWSL’s most dynamic duo sidelined by injury, the Courage needed Kristen Hamilton and Ashley Hatch to make an impact. They did that and more, combining for three first half goals en route to a 3-1 victory over the Boston Breakers.
Hamilton takes her chances
It took North Carolina less than three minutes to get off the mark. Samantha Mewis, one of the few USWNT players not injured last week, intercepted a pass from Megan Oyster. She spotted Hamilton straining at the backline and took a side step to free up the through channel and played a perfectly-paced ball between the defenders. With Abby Smith and Angela Salem collapsing on her, Hamilton took a touch and buried the shot in the far post for the first goal of the evening.
She got a second just ten minutes later, scoring off a corner kick for the fifth game in a row. Abby Dahlkemper laced a good ball in, and Abby Erceg headed it off the far post. Hatch struck the rebound, and that deflected off McCall Zerboni’s face and landed in front of Hamilton at the back post, who made no mistake in giving the Courage a 2-0 lead.
With the brace, Hamilton ensured that her first professional start in two years was also marked by her first two professional goals.
“It’s difficult on this team with Jess McDonald and Lynn Williams up top, obviously the leading scorer and leading assists in the league last year,” Hamilton explained. “I’ve been behind Lynn for the past couple season and just got my opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it and it was really good to get to come out and get show what I can do instead of the 80th minute and getting to come in and get the start.”
Thanks to the extra minutes, suddenly a player who hadn’t started a game in two years was contemplating a hat trick.
“Of course! Everyone told me at halftime. They were like ‘if you don’t get a hat trick,’” Hamilton said. “That’s always on your mind but at the end of the day that’s not the goal. I just want to perform and have a good performance and at the end of the day if I end up scoring off that, great, and if not, ok.”
Hatch put the game beyond reach in the 38th minute with the Courage’s third and final goal. Makenzy Doniak fed Hatch the ball, and Smith came out of her box to challenge. Hatch laid the ball back to Doniak, whose shot was blocked straight into Hatch’s path. The forward took a quick touch and fired a shot over the retreating Boston defense for the game’s third goal. It was also the rookie’s third goal in three straight games in both NWSL and U23 WNT competition.
“Once you get one, your confidence goes up and you’re hungry for more and when you play with amazing teams like I’m playing with it just makes it that much easier,” Hatch explained.
Boston's woes continue
Like North Carolina, Boston were far from being at full-strength as Rose Lavelle and Allysha Chapman both missed the match due to injuries accrued during the FIFA break, but unlike the Courage, they struggled throughout the game and ceded far too much ground in midfield. Rookie midfielder Morgan Andrews stepped in for Lavelle and did well to connect play when she had the ball, but Boston still went into the locker room at halftime without a good scoring opportunity to their name.
Boston found more room late in the second-half, particularly with the 57th minute introduction of Midge Purce, whose pace enlivened the Breakers’ tepid offense. The Breakers got finally got their breakthrough in the 75th minute through a little piece of luck. Adriana Leon sent in a cross that deflected off of Jaelene Hinkle and over Katelyn Rowland to make the score 3-1. Rosie White received her fifth yellow card of the season in the 80th minute so she will miss the team’s next match, adding to the team’s rising tally of out-of-action players.
The Breakers will get a chance at revenge next week when the Courage come to town on Saturday, June 24. That game kicks off at 4 pm and is available on go90.