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Hatch performance leads Courage sweep of Breakers

The North Carolina Courage (8-3-0, 24 points) closed out play against the Boston Breakers (2-6-2, 8 points) with a 1-0 win today in Boston, finishing the 2017 series against the Breakers 3-0-0. Although today’s contest was a harder-fought victory for the league leader than last week’s match-up, Ashley’s Hatch’s goal late in the first half was enough to earn them another three points and to knock Boston back down to the very bottom of the table. 

Much the same as last weekend, the opening 20 minutes or so were full of chances created by Hatch for the Courage. She earned the first corner kick just minutes before she was fouled by Megan Oyster, resulting in the Boston defender being shown a yellow card. In the 19th minute, she connected with Taylor Smith to create a chance for the Courage, but Smith’s shot on goal was scooped up by Sammy Jo Prudhomme, making her professional debut. Hatch followed Smith’s shot with one of her own in the 21st minute, once again testing Prudhomme when she headed a corner kick on goal.

It was little surprise then, when she scored to put the Courage in the lead in the final minutes of first-half regulation. In fact, the bigger surprise is that it took her 44 minutes to get on the scoresheet. The goal-scoring play started when Rowland put the ball back into play after Morgan Andrews sent in a long ball that had too mustard on it for any of her teammates, and the Courage used a series of passes that involved seven different North Carolina players to move the ball into their attacking third. Kristen Hamilton played the ball to Sam Mewis, who flicked it forward to Hatch. Hatch then squared up and took her shot, rifling it past Prudhomme for the lone goal of the match and Hatch’s third goal in as many games.

Although Boston started off the opening minutes of the match strong, their energy soon petered off, leading way to a dominant performance by the Courage. However, they were determined not to make the same mistake after halftime and looked much better in the second half as a result. That meant that the intensity of the second half was taken up several notches, especially as the game neared the hour mark.

Boston opened up a back-and-forth series of scoring opportunities as Tiffany Weimer sent in a high cross in front of the Courage’s goal. Both Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland and Breakers forward Natasha Dowie took to the air to try to get to Weimer’s cross first, but Dowie out-jumped the keeper and headed the ball, only for it to bounce wide of the goal.

Right at the hour mark, the Courage had another opportunity as Debinha sent in a hard shot from the far side of the field, only to see her shot fly just wide of the near post. The Breakers countered, and it wasn’t long before Dowie had another shot, this time on target. However, she was once again denied as Rowland made a diving save to deny the striker.  

Boston’s next, and last, solid look on goal came in the final 10 minutes of regulation time. Margaret Purce, who subbed on for Leon in the 61st minute, received the ball along the left flank and, using her speed, busted through the Courage defense to get a look at goal. Still surrounded by gold-and-white jerseys, Purce took a shot from inside the 18, but once again Rowland made the save to preserve the clean sheet.

Despite losing, the Breakers had to feel like today’s result was a moral victory, holding the Courage to just the one goal despite being without four of their starters. Once again wunderkind Rose Lavelle and Allysha Chapman were out with injuries sustained while with their respective national teams during the FIFA break, while Abby Smith was out after receiving treatment on her knee and Rosie White was suspended for yellow card accumulation. A full-strength Breakers team was able to hold them to the same scoreline earlier in the season, so for a much weaker Boston side to do the same isn’t something to scoff at, especially after the shellacking they took last weekend in North Carolina and falling into last place in league standings.

That moral victory will be needed when when they travel to Houston for a midweek match-up against the Dash, who is coming off a 2-0 win in Orlando today, on Wednesday, June 28 at 9 p.m. ET. The Courage, who have already played one midweek match, has Wednesday night off, not returning to the field until Saturday, July 1 when they once again face Sky Blue FC at home for the Lifetime Game of the Week.


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