NC Courage Week 1 Review: Washington Spirit

  • Despite playing the game mostly in either the defensive or middle third, and surrendering possession for the majority of the match, NC was fairly effective at creating chances. The Courage had 16 shots to Washington’s 17, and had 7 on target to Washington’s 6.
  • The fullbacks were an unknown going into the game, but both played extremely well in buildup and defensively as well. A common movement in the game was for either Pickett or Mathias to drift in around midfield when the AM drifted out, and pick out a pass over the top to a running forward (see McDonalds goal)
  • Hailie Mace was, according to Goals Added, the most valuable player of the night. McDonald generated more xG+xA (to the tune of 0.51) but Mace managed to make her impact in fewer touches. Getting Mace 12–13 touches in the final third every game is going to be key going forward.
Size based on Offensive Goals added. Goals Added in label, OGA in parentheses
  • Build up: Also on the shoulders of the core defensive four were the buildup struggles. Aside from some very good passing from the FBs, the Courage had a great deal of difficulty breaking into the final third. According to ASA’s xPassing model, the DMs were tasked with 53 passes in the mid third (about 1/3 of NC’s total passes in that area). Between the two, the expected pass completion based on the pass selection was 76%; the actual was just under 70%. That’s a pretty large gap as it marks 4 possessions ended over expected by poor passing.
  • Possession: I’ve talked about field tilt before; the idea that you want the ball in a certain third regardless of possession. Positive field tilt is a huge part of the way NC plays, but it was not happening last night. It was actually dead even, with 239 passes in both defensive/attacking thirds, but Washington had a possession edge of 41% to 29%. That’s a huge discrepancy and if not for NC’s clinical attack, should have cost the game.
  • Risk Management: A big part of that is risk — NC’s expected pass percentage in the final third was 59%, almost the lowest in the league. The Courage completed 45% of their passes, and it’s a big part of why field tilt was flipped. Washington was less risky, with an expected completion percentage of 69%, and on top of that actually completed 71%. Taking risky passes to create chances is part of the Courage DNA, but there’s a point where you have to recognize it isn’t working.
  • Debinha had a real shocker of a game by her standards, but you have to be encouraged by her movement and ability to create danger. If Mace and Hamilton can draw more defensive pressure she will get more opportunities on the ball.

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