CARY, N.C. (July 28, 2023) – The North Carolina Courage look to ride momentum from their historic second half performance a week ago as they host the Orlando Pride in UKG NWSL Challenge Cup action on Saturday, July 29, at 7:00 p.m. ET at WakeMed Soccer Park. The match will stream across the United States on Paramount+ (Joseph Malfa, Anna Witte) and internationally on www.nwslsoccer.com.
The Courage erupted for six goals in the second half last week to trounce the Washington Spirit, 6-0, and remain atop the Eastern Division in the Challenge Cup standings. Six different players scored as the team set the record across any NWSL competition for fastest span of four, five, and six goals scored. Frankie Tagliaferri scored her first professional goal, Narumi scored her first in the NWSL, and Tyler Lussi provided the first multi-assist match for the Courage since September of last season (Kerolin).
With a narrow lead over Gotham FC with just two group stage matches remaining, there will be no resting on laurels with every point critical for the Courage as they continue their title defense. The 2022 Challenge Cup champions are unbeaten in 14 straight Challenge Cup matches, matching OL Reign for the longest streak in league history, and both are still active. The lopsided win last week did wonders for the team’s goal differential, which could be crucial in the end, while posting their first clean sheet in Challenge Cup play this season.
Katelyn Rowland made the one save she needed to claim her league record extending 11th Challenge Cup win and improve to 11W-1L-4D all time in the competition.
Orlando has just one point in the competition through three group stage matches, sitting on the brink of elimination entering Saturday night. Their lone point came at home against the Courage after Denise O’Sullivan’s miracle strike in the 90+8’ forced a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium back in April. That moment has proven to be a defining one for the Courage and their first-year captain this season.
Orlando has scored four times on 12 shots in the tournament while conceding eight times. The young and upstart squad had started to find their footing through June and July, beginning to creep up the NWSL table. They will look to build momentum on the road against the surprise league giants in 2023.
With only one wild card spot available in the Challenge Cup playoff and Louisville and Kansas City dominating the Central Division, the only clear path to the semifinals is to win the East. Three points would be crucial ahead of a massive showdown in Harrison next week, which could essentially be for the division if this week shakes out with certain results.
With a lopsided win last week and big match looming next week, the Courage must retain their focus and avoid a potential trap against Orlando to get a result Saturday night.