Back On Top: NC Courage After 8
July 4th, as fireworks went off nationwide, the NC Courage helped bring a sense of normalcy to the nation by reclaiming their rightful spot at the top of the rankings.
With the July 4th win over the Orlando Pride, NC Courage are taking a 4 game win streak into Saturday’s game at Washington Spirit.
How they compare to the rest of the league:
By 5 game rolling xG, they aren’t exactly taking the world by storm. The Pride game was an overall disappointment in terms of xG, taking them from 2nd best offense and best defense in this metric to 3rd in both. Washington brings in a fearsome defense, but a much less impressive offense. So even if NC isn’t the best in terms of team performances, what is putting them at the top?
Here’s a look at the offensive Goals Added for every player that has been on the field in NWSL this year.
When you have 3 of the top 4 players in the league in terms of value added, that’s a pretty good sign. Lynn Williams is on pace for an MVP season (and Golden Boot on top of that). Debinha is right on her heels. Jessica McDonald is a classic target forward mixed with a visionary playmaker. Erceg’s brilliance is almost routine at this point.
Carson Pickett’s addition also needs to be highlighted. The retirement of Jaelene Daniels was a massive concern going into the season. Some clever roster maneuvering landed Pickett, who happens to lead the league in Key Passes this season so far. Not bad at all.
The Road Ahead:
It’s no secret that the Olympic run will be a difficult one. While some of the brighter lights are staying, it’s going to be tough to lose multiple top players. It’s all about who will step up. Who has the most to gain?
- Attacking Group: Havana Solaun already put in a great performance against Orlando, scoring a key late goal to secure the result. Hailie Mace and Kristen Hamilton have the most minutes, but there could be an opportunity to pass them up for either Brittany Ratcliffe or Rylee Baisden.
- Defensive Group: It’s no secret that the Courage are a different team with Erceg and Mewis, and finding a way to replace them will be key to staying on top of the rankings. Meredith Speck and Cari Roccaro are usually early off the bench, and had a lot of time together in the Challenge Cup to mixed results. Angharad James is a new player that can make her mark by replacing some of the quality Mewis leaves behind, and already started against the Pride in place of Mewis.
The Spirit are a tough opponent, and every soccer fan needs to watch Trinity Rodman. The rookie forward has taken the league by storm and can do a little bit of everything, whether it’s chasing down balls behind the backline, winning duels, or putting the finishing touches on a move.
Rodman is fourth in the league in xG+xA, and second in the league in shots plus key passes, only behind Debinha. She’s the out and out favorite for Rookie of the Year and a future MVP candidate. She’s made a great partnership with former Courage player Ashley Hatch.