North Carolina Courage (0-0-0, 0 pts) vs. Kansas City Current (0-0-0, 0 pts)
Saturday, March 25, at 2 p.m. ET | WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, N.C.
Broadcast: Paramount+ (PXP: JP Dellacamera, Analyst: Lianne Sanderson)
Social Media: @TheNCCourage
CARY, N.C. (March 24, 2023) – The North Carolina Courage begin a new era as they open the 2023 NWSL regular season this Saturday, March 25, at 2:00 p.m. ET against the defending league runner-up Kansas City Current at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Courage begin their seventh season since relocating from Western New York with nine new faces from a season ago and a new look in several facets.
Midfielder Denise O’Sullivan has been named the second captain in the history of the Courage, one of the few remaining players from the roster that brought three NWSL Shields and a pair of NWSL Championships. She’ll lead 17 returners, four first round draft picks, three NWSL additions in Emily Fox (Louisville), Estelle Johnson (Gotham), and Tyler Lussi (Angel City), and international signings Mille Gejl (Denmark) and Narumi Miura (Japan), both of whom have extensive experience abroad for both clubs and country.
The Courage were one of the most potent offenses in the NWSL a season ago but will have some big holes to fill to keep pace. Of their 43 goals last season, 29 came from players no longer on the roster. The constructed 2023 roster is a young team brimming with comradery and excitement, but they will have to learn quickly with one of the toughest tests in the NWSL coming to town to begin the year.
While the roster has a new look so too does the front of the Courage jersey with partner Merz Aesthetics. The launch of this expanded partnership is built on a joint mission to instill confidence and courage in women. The partnership launches Saturday with a purse donation drive, in collaboration with Dress for Success. Every new or lightly used purse donated earns a raffle ticket for a Courage jersey.
The donation station will be located at the entrance to the newly designed FanFest, which Courage supporters will get their first taste of this weekend. With kids activities, live entertainment, food, merchandise, player autograph stations (based on availability) and more, WakeMed Soccer Park is turning game day into a celebration all season long.
Quoting the Courage
Head Coach Sean Nahas on preseason camp:
“It’s been a long preseason, that’s for sure. We’ve had a lot of new, young faces to layer in and probably gone from one of the oldest rosters in the league to one of the youngest in a short time. But the growth of the group has been tremendous. The quality of the group is improving every day and the unity is very high.”
On expectations and preseason rankings:
“I’m not one to put expectations on anything. The power rankings and all that stuff, people are going to come up with that on their own and that’s fine. We have a very new team. The expectation, for us, is the one percent better mentality. For the players, it’s making sure the locker room is the way they want it. That this group is close, they push each other every day, hold each other accountable and hold each other to our values. And we’ll see where that takes us.”
On the Kansas City Current:
They’re a good squad and they’ve obviously bolstered their roster. First game, you never know what to expect. It’s going to take teams a while to get into their settled moments. They’re going to be an attacking group, they’re going to be organized. Matt (Potter) does a great job with them. We’re looking forward to an exciting game and what should be a great show for the fans.”
Captain Denise O’Sullivan on team chemistry:
“We’re all professionals and we can all take criticism and want to hold each other to a very high standard. Once we’re off the pitch we’re all really close. I think that bond is special and that really translates onto the pitch so, so far it’s going really well. We have a lot of leaders on this team and that’s helped the young players feel comfortable and feel like they have a voice too.”
Defender Ryan Williams on growth of back line:
“We’ve been working on defense a lot and it’s definitely been a work in progress. Going into this weekend, we feel really good about it and feel confident. Obviously, it’s going to continue to be a work in progress and, for each of us, every day we want to get a little bit better and communicate and keep asking questions. Across the board everyone on this team has worked really hard this preseason to make sure we do our job and work well as a unit.”
Defender Emily Fox on Opening Day excitement
“Playing at UNC, I played at WakeMed Soccer Park quite a bit, so this weekend does feel a bit like coming back home. The fans here are great and I’m really excited to be back in front of them while also having a new (professional) experience, get to know the Courage fans and play that first game.”
Scouting the Current
After finishing just shy of a worst-to-first run a year ago, the Kansas City Current made major waves at all three lines this off-season. Among their biggest moves were winning the Debinha sweepstakes to bolster their midfield, adding major weapons in the draft including Hermann Trophy winner Michelle Cooper out of Duke then adding stout defender Hanna Glas from Bayern Munich. A team loaded with firepower and a veteran head coach in Matt Potter is poised to be in title contention once again in 2023.
After claiming the 2022 Challenge Cup, the Courage hit a snag in the early portion of the regular season, forcing them into a mad dash down the stretch for a playoff push. With a compact schedule down the stretch and some positive results, the Courage controlled their own destiny entering the final match week of the regular season, but a draw at San Diego left the door open for Chicago and the Red Stars were able to win their final match to bump the Courage from playoff positioning. Four Courage players earned NWSL Best XI team awards for the season.
Players to Watch
North Carolina Courage – #9 Kerolin Nicoli
With much of the North Carolina firepower from 2022 gone, eyes will be on the rising Brazilian star Kerolin in the Courage attack. Scoring twice during the team’s preseason trip to Mexico, Kerolin is coming off a solid debut season with the Courage in which she scored six goals and had four assists despite playing just 13 regular season games due to injury. She’ll be on the world stage this summer as a mainstay in the Brazilian lineup for the World Cup. Her eye-popping footwork and technical skill, blended with a style that embraces contact, will make her a fun watch all season long.
Kansas City Current — #17 Michelle Cooper
If you are going to make your professional debut on the road, it might as well be a home away from home. Michelle Cooper returns to the Triangle after a star-studded career at Duke, culminating in a Hermann trophy in her final season, the first-ever Blue Devil to win the award. She netted a goal or assist in 29-of-40 career matches as a Blue Devil and in just two seasons she notched 31 goals, 16 assists and 78 points. Kansas City traded Lynn Williams to NJ/NY Gotham on draft night for the second overall pick and used the selection to bring the promising forward to the Current.
The Courage make their first road trip of the season when they visit Snapdragon Stadium and the San Diego Wave on Saturday, April 1, at 10:00 p.m ET / 7:00 p.m. PT. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ and @TheNCCourage will provide live updates on social media.