CARY, N.C. (July 19, 2018) - The North Carolina Courage (14W-1L-3D, 45 points) travel this week to take on the Utah Royals (5W-6L-6D, 21 points) on Friday, July 20 at 10 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Courage look to stay undefeated on the road as they take on a Utah team that has only lost two games at home this season.
Last Saturday, the reigning NWSL shield winners earned a second consecutive playoff berth with a commanding win over Sky Blue in their sixth four-goal game of 2018. Abby Erceg scored the first goal of the game in the 15th minute. Kristen Hamilton sent in a ball that was placed perfectly for Erceg to head in her second tally of the season. Hamilton also assisted the second goal of the game that came from the right foot of Lynn Williams in the 56th minute. Williams later found the back of the net in both the 72nd and 89th minutes, earning her a hat trick on the night and NWSL Player of the Week honors.
With a three-goal performance, Lynn Williams now has eight goals on the season. She sits in second place in the NWSL Golden Boot race behind Sam Kerr and Lindsey Horan, who each have nine goals on the season. Williams is no stranger to the Golden Boot, as she won the award in 2016.
In their most recent match, Utah Royals FC fell to the Orlando Pride, 2-1. Amy Rodriguez scored Utah’s only goal of the game in the 8th minute. Orlando came back and scored goals in the 45th and 52nd minutes to clinch the win.
Utah is the only team in the NWSL that the Courage have yet to beat. The first matchup between the two teams ended in a 2-2 draw. The second match ended in a 1-0 loss with a stoppage-time goal by Brittany Ratcliffe. Utah Royals FC have acquired well-known U.S. Women’s National Team player, Christen Press, in a trade with the Houston Dash since their last matchup against the NC Courage.
The NC Courage will be without six of their usual starters as Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Jaelene Hinkle, Merrit Mathias, Samantha Mewis and McCall Zerboni have all been called into U.S. Women’s National Team camp in advance of the Tournament of Nations. Brazilian standout Debinha will also join Brazil for the tournament, but will report following the match. To fill some of the roster spots, the Courage have signed Carlin Hudson, Morgan Reid, Sarah Teegarden and Ryan Williams to National Team Replacement contracts.
With a victory over Utah, the Courage are guaranteed no worse than a second-place finish in the league, which would guarantee home–field advantage for the first playoff game.
There have only been two meetings between the two teams. Utah entered the league for the 2018 season.
Saturday, April 21, 2018, Cary, N.C. – 2-2 D (6’- Merritt Mathias, 52’- Stengel, 66’- Ratcliffe, 80-‘ Dunn)
Saturday, June 16, 2018, Cary, N.C.- 0-1 L [90+4’- Ratcliffe]
Players to Watch:
North Carolina Courage – #23 Kristen Hamilton
Kristen Hamilton has played in 17 of the NC Courage’s 18 games this season for a total of 633 minutes. Hamilton has had two assists and one goal in the past three games. She has a total of four assists and two goals on the season. No matter if she is starting or coming in as a second-half substitution, Hamilton makes a difference in the game.
Utah Royals FC – #25 Brittany Ratcliffe
Brittany Ratcliffe has taken three shots this season, all of which have been on target, and two of which resulted in goals. Ratcliffe’s two goals on the season have both been at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park against the NC Courage. She has played in nine games this season for a total of 340 minutes. The Courage defensive line is going to be on the lookout for Utah’s No. 25.