The North Carolina Courage drew the Orlando Pride 0-0 on Saturday afternoon in the Courage’s second game of the NWSL Fall Series.
After a first half that saw the Courage put just one of its six shots on target, the Courage’s attack started to come alive in the second half. Debinha had a close-range effort stopped by a brilliant foot save from Ashlyn Harris and Lynn Williams came close on a few occasions after taking on a defender one-on-one.
The Courage came within inches of scoring in the 81st minute after Lynn Wiliams’s low cross slipped under Harris and onto the goalline but a last-ditch effort from Carrie Lawrence kept it from crossing the line. No matter what the Courage did, it simply couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I wouldn’t say we are happy with tying but I think we went into the game priding ourselves on defense, getting the press right and keeping a clean sheet so in a sense we are happy with that,” said Courage captain Abby Dahlkemper. “We didn’t do enough attacking wise. That comes down to all of us… We got into the final third a lot, we just couldn’t get that final ball right, couldn’t get the shot on frame.”
Courage head coach Paul Riley stuck to his guns in terms of formation, starting the game with a 3-2-4-1 that looked nearly identical to the formation in the second half against Houston, minus some personnel changes. Addisyn Merrick returned to the starting lineup after being forced off early due to an injury against the Dash and Peyton Perea, who replaced Merrick in that game, slid into the midfield beside Cari Roccaro. Danica Evans moved to the bench to make way for Perea, leaving Lynn Williams alone up top.
“We went to a box in the middle again with two wing backs, back three and the box,” Riley said. “I felt it gave us more stability in the midfield with two sixes playing. It allowed us to play out through the two sixes, I think Peyton and Cari had really good games today. I think their speed of play was better than last week, turnovers were a little bit less in that area of the field too. That was the main thing.”
Merrick, who Riley referred to as the “best player on the field,” showed why she has been one of Riley’s go-to defensive players, whether that is as an outside back or a center back, both in the NWSL Challenge Cup and so far in the Fall Series.
“It was really good to finally get to play more than four minutes,” Merrick said. “I just was enjoying it. Getting to play in a new position is fun for me. I get to learn new stuff. Ultimately, it just helps me become a better player. Even to just get minutes on the field, get touches is good. I enjoyed it a lot. “
The Courage will hit the road for the remainder of its NWSL Fall Series Schedule, facing off with the Dash in Houston on Oct. 4 before finishing out its schedule with another showdown with the Pride, this time in Orlando on Oct. 17.