The North Carolina Courage and Chicago Red Stars finally got their semifinal match played on Tuesday night in Portland. It ended like so many other Courage matches this season — with a North Carolina win.
The 2-0 victory by the displaced Courage was their 20th of the season including a record-setting 17 in the regular season and a pair in the International Champions Cup. And they did it without MVP finalist McCall Zerboni, whose presence was surely missed in the midfield. So how did they do it? Here are three thoughts.
Sam Kerr never got behind the defense
Okay maybe it happened once. But for the most part of the Courage sat their back line deep, and they were loyal to the plan, and as a result, Kerr spent too much time probing and not enough time in finishing positions. This was especially true of center backs Abby Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper, and more often than not Jaelene Hinkle. Kerr’s two best chances came off a giveaway when she hit the post in the first half and when she was tackled just outside the box in the second.
The foul near the box was very nearly a penalty, and the ensuing free kick turned out to be one of the Red Stars’ best chances, but the Courage center backs did appear to be in a strong position at the time of that play. The shot off the post came from a giveaway and the early chance from Yuki Nagasato that hit the crossbar also happened after a weak clearance of a cross.
The most overlooked element of the Courage season has been their defense…
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