Orlando, Florida (June 1, 2019) — It’s been a rocky season for the North Carolina Courage. After a near-perfect season last year, North Carolina has battled countless struggles this season. The struggles have even amounted to North Carolina not finding a win since April 28.
Their last victory was against the Houston Dash. However, the Courage obtained the sweet taste of victory for the first time in a month on Saturday night in Orlando. In the home building of the Orlando Pride, the Courage swooped in for three points.
North Carolina Courage pick up first win since April against Orlando Pride
North Carolina rolled out a box formation to begin the match. However, Paul Riley’s players eventually took a 4-4-2 formation throughout the match.
It took 59 minutes, but Kristen Hamilton found the back of the net. However, her night wasn’t just done with one goal. Instead, Hamilton found the back of the net again almost 10 minutes later. While her first goal was unassisted, Leah Pruitt registered the assist on Hamilton’s second goal.
That wasn’t enough for the forward. Hamilton bagged another goal in the 85th minute to score a hat-trick. Her third and final goal was assisted by Jaelene Hinkle, who now has three assists on the year.
Meanwhile, for the Pride, chances were created mainly by Rachel Hill. In the first half, Orlando registered two shots on goal, which both came from Hill. However, in goal for the Courage was rookie goalkeeper Sam Leshnak. Joining the Courage from the University of North Carolina, Leshnak started the match over Katelyn Rowland.
The veteran Rowland sat on the bench after rough patches of performance against Reign FC last weekend, Utah Royals FC and Chicago Red Stars.
With the victory, North Carolina have jumped up to third place. Meanwhile, also on Saturday night, the Washington Spirit popped up to first place in the standings with a victory over the Utah Royals. Ashley Hatch and Dorian Bailey found the back of the net for now the 16-point holding team.
As for the Pride, they remain in last place with just one point in eight matches.
Not throwing away her shot (or second.. or third)!
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 2, 2019
- Hamilton has some power: Not having Crystal Dunn, Jess McDonald and Debinha certainly hurts the North Carolina Courage. However, Kristen Hamilton is a player that can step up when needed. She proved that against the Pride with a hat-trick. While they might not have been the prettiest goals, they got the job done.
- Orlando needs some help: Some players are gone on international duty. That might help Orlando clean up in terms of getting the team focused. However, on the pitch, the product still isn’t good enough. Marc Skinner needs answers fast through training. However, in all fairness, Orlando hasn’t been given the easiest schedule to start the season. A two-week break will suit the Pride well to regroup and refocus.
- Don’t count North Carolina out: The next couple of weeks is going to be tough without the national team stars. However, rookie Leah Pruitt has shown her ability to score and get on the assist chart. Other players are stepping up for North Carolina. However, what needs to happen is consistency. If North Carolina wants to get back on top, they can’t produce inconsistent results.
What they Said: Orlando Pride
Marc Skinner wants fans to know the truth after his side fell to the Courage. Despite the blanking at home in front of 4,427 fans, Skinner said the Pride competed with the champions for 60 minutes.
He called Hamilton’s second goal “the mistake” the Pride gave up.
“If you open up against [North Carolina], they’ve got the players that can just hurt you on the counterattack,” Skinner said in his post-game remarks. “I think that up until that point I was really proud of the girls and the effort they put in. It’s just always going to be a matter of quality and that’s the thing that has to improve. I’m pleased with them and what they give for the shirt, but there’s a quality issue, both boxes need work and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Skinner said that holding North Carolina scoreless wasn’t even on his mind. He wanted to make sure that the Pride were tactically sound.
“Tactically they were fine, the girls understand what we’re asking them to do and they were trying,” Skinner said. “It’s just when they make individual mistakes, then it kind of kills what we’re trying to do… I think it’s the point where we can concede that poor goal and it’s that lack of communication in that moment. It’s only the moment, they need to stop doing that. If they stop doing that, you’re in the game and once we lose that, you lose momentum.”
50' | Just… wide… great look from Chi and Rachel!
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) June 2, 2019
Players aren’t losing hope
Despite sitting in last place, the Pride players aren’t losing hope and aren’t giving up. Pride forward Rachel Hill said that, despite the results, she sees the team getting better each game.
“Obviously it sucks to lose and to put it simply, we need to score goals and we need to not let goals in,” Hill said. “I think we’re getting better and better each week, we’re staying positive, we’re doing what we are told and we are trying our game plan, we’re sticking to it and everyone’s heads are up. So I think given time we’ll get there, but it is a bit frustrating for now.”
Hill said that credit needs to go to Skinner for keeping the team focused.
“He’s never taken his foot off the gas,” Hill said. “Each week he puts his all into every practice, every video session, everything he can do, he’s done and it definitely helps us and motivates us and it helps us to not lose that belief. I don’t think anyone has, by any means, but his encouragement, as well as Carl’s [Green] and Lloyd’s [Yaxley], and Ivi [Casagrande], and the rest of our staff, has definitely helped us through it.”
Meanwhile, Bridget Callahan, who featured in the midfield, said that there’s always room for improvement.
“I think there is things that do need to improve such as just connecting passes, and just holding onto the ball, when we can hold onto the ball,” Callahan said. “Going forward, just making the right decision and just have meaningful possession, like you said. So, there’s a numerous amount of things, but we will work on them in practice and go from there.”
32' | KICK. SAVE. @hkopmeyer 👏
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) June 2, 2019
The Pride will attempt to rebound on the road in two weeks against the Houston Dash. The entire NWSL will take a two-week break for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will begin on June 7.
Meanwhile, the Courage will return from the break with a contest against the Portland Thorns. Just like the Courage, Portland is missing plenty of national team stars to the World Cup. That match will also take place on Saturday, June 15.