The burning on-field question of this National Women’s Soccer League offseason once again revolved around how anyone was going to beat the North Carolina Courage. A week into the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, it’s fair to wonder if the answer revolves around imitating what the Courage are doing.
North Carolina defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 1-0 on Sunday on a late goal from Abby Erceg, but the Red Stars looked effective throughout much of the match as they put pressure on North Carolina higher up the field and, as midfielder Morgan Gautrat (nee Brian) said, “matched their box [midfield] a bit.”
As was the case with the Portland Thorns against Chicago on Wednesday, the semantics of what to call the shape are less important than the shape’s execution and effect. Chicago is a team which has long had an abundance of central midfielders, and on Sunday, the Red Stars did well to find the half-spaces in and around North Carolina’s box of four to play through the midfield.
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