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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The North Carolina Courage - A Tale of Two Halves

One of the reasons I love going to watch soccer matches in Cary, North Carolina is because of the on the pitch seats. It's a really fun place to watch the match. This time I was there to watch the NC Courage and it was pretty dang awesome. The Courage were the runners up in the National Women's Soccer League last year and, judging from last year's trip to see NCFC, the Courage draw as big a crowd as the men. And that's the way it ought to be. This sport has been more of a women's sport in the US for years and it's great when people are there for it and the stands are filled with girls looking up to women proving that they can succeed better than the men.

The first half was all about the Courage. Every pass went home and the Courage kept the Utah Royals' goal under siege. The Courage's first goal came when a corner kick was bounced out away from the goal and Merritt Mathias smashed a long distance seeing-eye ball through everybody, off the top bar, and into the goal.

The second half was a different story. The Royals obviously made adjustments during the break and they absolutely dominated for the first 35 minutes. The Courage played like they were flustered and two glaring mistakes on their part gave the Royals a 2-1 lead. The first Royals goal came when a Courage defender headed a ball toward the goal over her own goalie and a Royals player tapped it in with her head. The second came when the Courage's goalie kicked a ball right to a Royals player and got it kicked right back past her.

Then, in the 80th minute the Royals goalie made her own unforced error. She charged out - way out - to try to kick the ball clear. She wiffed and the ball deflected directly to a Courage player who made a soft kick into the net. After that things settled into "this is going to be a tie" mode. Both sides played well enough and the Royals made a decent shot on goal in the last couple minutes, but neither side got the momentum going.

In the end, it was a 2-2 tie. The Royals seem to be specializing in these and this was their third tie of the season. On the other hand, the Courage are still the only team with a winning record in the NWSL.

The NC Courage mascot vamping before the match.

And so it begins.

This guy kept running in front of my seat and partially blocking my view.

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