The core of the North Carolina Courage remains largely unchanged, with Lynn Williams, Debinha, Jessica McDonald, Denise O'Sullivan, Katelyn Rowland, Kristen Hamilton, Meredith Speck, and captain Abby Erceg all returning for their fifth seasons in 2021. The 2019 NWSL Champions did however add some additional pieces to their roster, acquiring former Pride defender Carson Pickett via trade earlier this year as well as former OL Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy, along with the signings of veteran Irish defender Diane Caldwell and Wales midfielder Angharad James. This past offseason saw former Courage defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Crystal Dunn depart North Carolina, the former joining ex-Courage midfielder Sam Mewis at FA WSL side Manchester City and the latter being traded to Portland.
The Courage have played to a 2-1-0 record thus far in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, most recently taking a 3-2 victory at Racing Louisville on Monday. Finishes from Kristen Hamilton and Debinha followed by a Julia Ashley own goal in the 84th minute sealed the three points for the visiting Courage, who now sit at six points in the East Division of the competition.
Debinha leads the league with three finishes through the Challenge Cup, while teammate Jessica McDonald sits atop the competition with three assists to add to her two finishes through the Courage’s three matches. Kristen Hamilton sits tied for second in the league with two finishes of her own, while Hailie Mace trails McDonald with two assists to tie with Pride midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard and Gotham forward Ifeoma Onumonu for second in the league.
The Pride took two draws against the Courage a year ago at the NWSL Fall Series, the first a scoreless outing at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sept. 19. Just under a month later, the Pride closed out the competition with a thrilling 3-3 draw against the Courage at Exploria Stadium, overcoming a three-goal deficit completed by a finish from defender Ally Haran in second half stoppage time to force the two sides to split the points from the contest.
Rasmussen College Fun Fact
Orlando Pride captain Ashlyn Harris enters this weekend’s competition as both the two-time defending holder of NWSL Save of the Week, along with NWSL Player of the Week. Now in her sixth season with the Pride, Harris has earned Save of the Week honors 30 times while this past week marks her first NWSL Player of the Week award.