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NC Courage Comeback Comes Up Short as They Fall to Houston Dash

North Carolina Courage 3 –4 Houston Dash

Cary, NC— After a month away from WakeMed Soccer Park, the North Carolina Courage returned home to take on the Houston Dash in a late Sunday afternoon matchup.

But the “friendly confines” turned into a House of Horrors for the Courage early in the second half, finding themselves down 4-1 before many fans had a chance to return from the concession stands. Despite a spirited comeback attempt, the Dash snapped North Carolina’s three-game unbeaten streak with a 4-3 win.

The day certainly started off well for the Courage. In the sixth minute, a clearing attempt by the Houston defense bounced out to Denise O’Sullivan. The Irish national settled the ball down with her chest and ripped a shot from about five yards north of the penalty arc that knuckled under the crossbar to give North Carolina the early lead.

“I think the past few games I’ve been getting more advanced of the pitch. I usually wouldn’t say this, but I was feeling a goal coming on myself, honestly,” O’Sullivan said after the game. “And so yeah, I was just at the edge of the box and the ball fell right to me and I just said I’m just gonna put this over the goalkeeper so I just went for it.”

The Dash would get the equalizer against the run of play just a few minutes later. An errant pass attempt in the Courage defensive third ended up at the feet of Shea Groom. The Houston forward ran through open space toward the 18-yard box, and, with two defenders closing in on her, she went to ground to slide a pass over to María Sánchez, who snuck the shot past North Carolina goalkeeper Casey Murphy near post to level the score at a goal each.

Despite North Carolina seeing more quality chances through the remainder of the half, the teams carried the draw into halftime.

And then the wheels came off for head coach Sean Nahas’ club. It started in the 47th minute when former Courage player Elizabeth Eddy got on a loose ball in the penalty area and split the seam between two Courage defenders to beat Murphy and put the Dash on top.

Three minutes later, Eddy scored a brace, this time chipping the ball over Murphy from the left side of the six-yard box.

With North Carolina trying to simultaneously plug the defensive leak while bailing out the boat, Nichelle Prince stunned the Courage and the crowd with Houston’s third goal in just over four minutes. The Canadian national ran onto the end of a lofted ball through midfield and took on North Carolina defender Kaleigh Kurtz one-on-one. After cutting toward the middle of the penalty area, she curled a shot around Kurtz and just out reach of Murphy’s outstretched fingers.

“Houston just attacked that right side. And, you know, we just seemed shocked, to be honest with you,” Courage head coach Sean Nahas noted in his post-game remarks.

Not even six minutes into the second half, observers were wondering what just happened on the field at Sahlen’s Stadium.

Whatever it was, it lit a fire under the Courage. In the 57th minute, Carson Pickett crossed the ball through midfield over to Diana Ordoñez at the top of the 18-yard box. The first-year forward faked a cut inside, turning the defender around to clear space in front of her. She placed a cheeky shot right through Jane Campbell’s wickets to cut the home team’s deficit.

And then it was Debinha, who was on a mission throughout the second half. After taking a ping pass from fellow Brazilian Kerolin Nicoli, Debinha took on three Dash defenders before turning and threading the needle with a shot that beat Campbell.

Just like that, a potential rout turned into a barn-burner of a game.

The Courage kept the pressure on Houston throughout the final half-hour. But, despite creating several chances and a flurry of corner kicks late in the game, the clock ran out on North Carolina’s comeback, and Houston got away with all three points.

North Carolina midfielder Brianna Pinto couched her observations of her team’s temporary collapse in the second half with the competitiveness of the league as a whole.

“I think one of the beautiful and I guess in our case, ugly things about this league is there any on any given day any team can win. But I think that’s a testament to the growth of the women’s game, especially in the NWSL,” said Pinto. “And I think it’s going to continue to push for excellence across the board. So we have to be sharp every minute. And I think at the start of the second half, we had a mental lapse and a couple of goals were scored on us. And we really had to dig deep and get checked in so that we could make a run to equalize.”

Last Words from Nahas: “We have some good veterans and, you know, players in this group that have been through situations like that, so you just sort of trust them enough to sort of get out of it,” Nahas noted after the game. “And we knew we were going to create chances, what happened so early, so we knew we were going to create chances, there was just a matter of how quickly were we going to create them, and then you can see the energy change once we got the second goal.”

“And then you start to see more of who we were. And that’s what I told them at the end of the game, as, you know, we can definitely take a lot more positives out of that response than we can, the negative the response of given up the goals of times, just because sometimes there’s not much, that’s something we have to look at within, you know, because it was for whatever reason, but it’s a learning moment, it’s an opportunity for us to get better.”

Final Notes

  • Houston forward María Sánchez had a productive afternoon with a goal and two assists for the Dash.
  • Following the match, the Courage recognized Carson Pickett and Jaelene Daniels for playing 100 regular-season NWSL games.
  • Carson Pickett received her first call up to the USWNT. She’ll join Casey Murphy on the June camp roster.
  • Other Courage players getting call-ups to their national teams include Diana Ordoñez (MEX), Debinha and Kerolin Nicoli (BRA), and Brianna Pinto was named to the US U-23 National Team Roster.
  • Next up for North Carolina is a short breather for the international break before they travel to Seattle to face OL Reign on Friday, July 1.


North Carolina Courage: C. Murphy; K. Kurtz, A. Erceg©, M. Mathias (R. Williams 67’), M. Berkely (J. Daniels 67’); D. O’Sullivan, C. Pickett, B. Pinto (F. Tagliaferri 90+1), Debinha; D. Ordoñez, Kerolin

Houston Dash: J. Campbell©; E. Eddy, K. Naughton, A. Prisock, A. Chapman; H. Hanson, S. Schmidt, M. Viggiano, N. Prince (C.J. Farquharson 70’); M. Sánchez (M. Abam 89’), S. Groom (J. Anderson 80’)

North Carolina Courage: 3
Houston Dash: 4

North Carolina Courage: D. O’Sullivan (6’ Unassisted); D. Ordoñez (57’ C. Pickett); Debinha (59’ Unassisted)

Houston Dash: M. Sánchez (15’ S. Groom); E. Eddy (47’ Unassisted); E. Eddy (50’ M. Sánchez); N. Prince (51’ M. Sánchez)

North Carolina Courage: None
Houston Dash: M. Sánchez (YC 76’)

Attendance: 4,117

The post NC Courage Comeback Comes Up Short as They Fall to Houston Dash appeared first on Prost Amerika.

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