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With Kerolin out, Gotham presses Courage out of preferred possession style

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Reporting from WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

The North Carolina Courage crashed out of the first round of the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs after losing to NJ/NY Gotham FC by a 2-0 scoreline at home on Sunday. North Carolina struggled to find its footing from the very beginning and conceded in the fading moments of both halves. 

The Courage, who spent the entire season leaning on their slow, methodical build-up play, couldn’t break through Gotham’s press. Gotham suffocated the Courage in most of their build-up attempts. There were stretches of this game during which North Carolina were pinned in their defensive third, desperately trying to get out of their own half. In those moments, Gotham foiled the Courage’s forward progression by cutting off passing angles and closing space on the player with the ball.

Comparing North Carolina’s possession statistics versus Gotham to their season-long averages helps to put the Courage’s performance into perspective. In the regular season, the Courage posted an NWSL-record 60% average possession value and managed an 82.5% passing accuracy. Against Gotham, the Courage possessed the ball just about half the time, and completed just 71% of their passes. 

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