When? Wednesday May 18, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? WakeMed Soccerplex, Cary, NC.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States, and on Twitch for international supporters.
The Orlando Pride can take a lot of heart from their encouraging draw with the Kansas City Current last time out. The defensive lapses will have been something of a concern for Amanda Cromwell and her staff. But they'll have been heartened by the spirit they showed to haul themselves level at the death.
The North Carolina Courage have gotten this regular season off to an absolute stinker. An opening day defeat was compounded by an outbreak of COVID-19 in the camp ahead of their game against Gotham FC. That being said, they obviously triumphed in the Challenge Cup, so they're not exactly out of form.
The Courage's style
The Courage are a quality side, and they have been for a while. They might not be on a par with some of their more winningest teams in recent years, but they're still a dangerous outfit; particularly in transition. The Courage aren't necessarily going to monopolise possession (they averaged 52% in the Challenge Cup), but they are ruthless on the counter attack; they converted 17% of their shots, and scored every 33.8 minutes on their way to victory in the Challenge Cup (figure 1).
They are also a team that likes to get the ball forward quickly. They have pace and power in attacking areas with Debinha and Kerolin in particular. Debinha is likely to have a free role, whilst Korolin Ferraz will assume a more central position. Then they'll have either Jaelene Daniels or Diana Ordonez making runs down the channel and stretching the defence. Goals can come from all over the park; they had 9 different scorers in the Challenge Cup. This game will be a stern examination of Orlando's capabilities.
Figure 1 shows some of the Courage's attacking statistics from the Challenge Cup.
Figure 2 shows the Courage's passing direction percentages from the Challenge Cup.
Currently the Courage have a lengthy absentee list, although I'd expect that to change. The Courage suffered an outbreak of Covid-19. The Courage are expected to provide an update during their pre-match media availability on Tuesday, so this section will be updated accordingly then. Emily Gray, Kerolin Ferraz and Kiki Pickett are out with injuries however. Casey Murphy is questionable.
The Pride, on the other hand, have an absentee list restricted only to injuries. Angharad James, Amy Turner, Caitlin Cosme, Marta, Meggie Dougherty-Howard, Parker Roberts and Vivianna Villacorta are all listed as out.
This section will be updated as and when new information becomes available.
Possible starting XI
The Courage tend to line-up in a 4-3-3. I can Jaelene Daniels being pushed back into the XI at left forward. Otherwise, the line-up will depend on who is out of Covid protocols/who is feeling well enough to play.
Her team's standout performer (as usual) during the recent defeat to Angel City. Her fotmob.com rating of 8.0 says it all; 3 successful dribbles, 6 recoveries, 5 shots and 1 goals. Debinha is a class act, her close control, low centre of gravity and explosive finishing make her a nightmare to defend against. The enigmatic Brazilian plundered 5 goals in 7 games as the Courage stormed to victory in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride will have to mark her out of the game, if they hope to emerge from Cary with any sort of positive result.
The Courage lost their opening game of the regular season, away at Angel City. Their game against Gotham was curtailed by Covid-19. Oh, and they won the Challenge Cup. I guess that's OK. Even if that tournament is about as popular as a Star Wars sequel movie.
The Pride, on the other hand are 1-1-1. The recent draw with the Kansas City Current came off the coat tails of that historic win in Los Angeles.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com.