Coming off two straight seasons as the NWSL’s highest-scoring team, the North Carolina Courage decided to use their first-round draft pick in 2020 on Ally Watt, a prolific forward coming off a masterful collegiate career at Texas A&M. That head coach Paul Riley & Co. felt the Courage’s attack could still be strengthened speaks both to the team’s ambition – and Watt’s talent.
On Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET, Watt will play in the grand final of the 2019-20 Australian W-League season for Melbourne City against Sydney FC, her last match before shifting focus to the upcoming NWSL season, her first in the league. Stream the match on ESPN+
Here are 5 things to know about the Courage’s newest forward.
Watt Has Hit the Ground Running in Australia
Melbourne City cruised to a first-place finish atop the W-League table, but the league’s frontrunners became even stronger when Watt signed with the club in late January through the end of the season.
In her first three matches with Melbourne City, Watt scored three goals in just 141 minutes of playing time. And since signing Watt, Melbourne City has outscored opponents 16-2. Included in that stretch was a 3-1 win against Brisbane Roar that featured two goals from Watt in her first-ever professional start.
An A-Plus Career with the Aggies
In 90 matches with Texas A&M from 2015-19, the 5’8” Watt scored 49 goals and earned almost as many accolades. In her senior season alone (16 goals, 7 assists), her honors included: spots on the First Team All-America and All-SEC squads, Mac Hermann Trophy Semifinalist and SEC Forward of the Year. The year before, Watt’s 2018 campaign (15 goals, 3 assists) saw her earn a spot on the United Soccer Coaches All-America First Team.
Perhaps most impressive, nearly 40% of Watt’s collegiate goals (19) were match-winners.
National Team Experience – With a Courage Connection
After her 2015 freshman season at Texas A&M, Watt took a redshirt year in 2016 in order to represent the U.S. National Team at the 2016 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea. Watt took full advantage of the opportunity, scoring twice in the tournament as she played for a coaching staff that featured current Courage assistant coach Sean Nahas.
In the US’ quarterfinal stage win over Mexico, Watt scored the game-tying goal and was named the FIFA Player of the Match. In total, Watt scored seven goals in 14 matches with the U-20 National Team.
Here’s Nahas’ assessment at the NWSL Draft of Watt, a player he’s certainly familiar with:
“Ally’s got one thought and that’s to get behind backlines and score goals,” Nahas said. “She’s dynamic. Her separation in the final third is second to none from what I’ve seen. For us, we have players like Debinha, Denise O’Sullivan, Sam Mewis and Crystal Dunn underneath her to play that final ball in. It’s going to be an exciting time for us to have her.”
Plenty of Pace in Her Game
Over the years, Riley’s Courage teams have differentiated themselves from other clubs across the league with their athleticism and sheer speed. It’s common for the Courage to simply look a step ahead of the opponent, and Watt is certainly another speedster.
At Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., Watt was a track star, winning state titles in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter races, and the 4x100 Meter and 4x200 Meter Relays. Watt ran the anchor leg on what still stands as the Colorado record for the fastest ever 4x200 Meter Relay time.
“She fits our profile with the sort of players we’re looking for,” Riley said of Watt at the NWSL Draft. “You look at her, it’s a Lynn Williams-esque player with talent around the box – the ability to stretch teams, the ability to get behind. Certainly with our midfield, she’s gonna get chances.”
Colorado Company in Cary
When she links up with the Courage ahead of the 2020 NWSL season, Watt will be playing thousands of miles away from her hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo.
But she’ll be in good company, as there are numerous Colorado connections with the Courage. In addition to Watt, Kristen Hamilton (Littleton), Lauren Milliet (Durango), Ryan Williams (Centennial) and Jaelene Hinkle (Denver) are all from the Centennial State.