Preview: North Carolina Courage (h).
Updated: Apr 16, 2022
When? Saturday April 16, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
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 Pride are now out of the Challenge Cup, which will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to Amanda Cromwell and her players. The upside is that now the team can truly approach the rest of this tournament with the mindset that it's still pre-season. To some the Challenge Cup is pre-season, but the Pride haven't been treating it like that. Whenever I've spoken to coach Cromwell I've always gotten the impression she wants to do well in this tournament.
The team will have learned a lot from the defeat in Washington. I don't believe there's any shame in it; even as the reigning NWSL champions, I'm not sure the Spirit get the credit they deserve. They're a good team, and plenty of teams will lose there this season.
Anyway, with all that in mind, this is still an important game for the Pride. The longer they go without a win, the tougher it will be for them to snap that streak. Let's hope they can finally get that winning feeling this weekend.
North Carolina's style
The North Carolina Courage are a traditionally tough team to play against, and there's no exception this year. This is a high intensity, possession based team that has attacking weapons that can hurt teams all over the park. So far, in 2022, the team has averaged 55% possession and has scored 6 goals from 48 shots, making for a decent conversion rate of 13%. This is a team that likes to play with a high line and dictate the notion of a game by exploiting space. Debinha tends to draw players away in her free role which allows the likes of Jaelene Daniels and Carson Pickett to profit from wide areas. So far this season the Courage have hit 76 crosses (figure 1), which as an average of 19 per game. The likes of Debinha and Rylee Baisden will look to profit them.
Figure 1 shows some possession stats on the season so far for the Courage.
Expect the Courage to be on the offensive a lot in this game. As you can see from the stats in figure 1, they have a high success rate for passes in the opposition half (the Pride's is 68.7%). They're a team that plays a lot of high percentage passes, that gets the ball forward quickly. As I've already alluded to, they're also pretty clinical when chances come their way (figure 2).
Figure 2 shows the Courage's goal scoring stats on the season so far.
The Courage have a few injuries heading into this game; Caitlin Fregulia, Casey Murphy, Brittany Radcliffe and Havana Solaun are all out. Taylor Smith is listed as questionable.
Orlando meanwhile are without Caitlin Cosme, Erin McLeod, Marta and Vivianna Villacorta through injury. Kylie Strom is suspended. Whilst Sydney Leroux's left leg is on international duty still. Her right leg is available though.
This section will be updated as and when new information becomes available.
Edit, the most current availability report:
Possible starting XI
The Courage will likely line up with their familiar 4-3-3 formation. It's a formation that often switches to a 4-3-2-1 when Debinha drops between the lines with the 2 forwards stretching the defences and creating space for the Brazilian.
Debinha continues to be a shining light for this club; across her 3 games in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Debinha has scored twice, played 5 key passes and completed 83.8% of her passes. Debinha has remarkable close control, an ability to operate between the lines and an unusually high soccer IQ. Orlando will need to keep tabs on her to ensure she doesn't do too much damage.
The Courage head into this game with a 2-2-0 record. North Carolina currently sits 1st in the group and look set to advance out of the group stage.
The Pride, however, have been eliminated from contention. A 0-1-3 record means that Orlando are winless through 4 games.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.