Rookie forward Ashley Hatch scored the first goal of her NWSL career as the North Carolina Courage topped FC Kansas City 2-0 in front of 3,717 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.
With the win, North Carolina improved to 6-3-0 with 18 points and will keep hold of first place in the NWSL standings for at least another week. The Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC, who both play later this weekend, each have 13 points.
Hatch, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, earned her first start of the season as Courage forward Jessica McDonald missed the game with a left hamstring strain. The former BYU standout scored in the 67th minute to cement the win.
Courage midfielder Debinha won the ball in midfield and passed it to forward Lynn Williams. Williams quickly sent a long pass around three FC Kansas City defenders that Hatch ran onto the end of and slipped past FCKC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to make it 2-0.
“[Williams] gave me a perfect ball, perfectly placed. All I had to do was just finish it for her,” Hatch told Dalen Cuff on Lifetime after the game.
After a scoreless first half, midfielder McCall Zerboni scored the opening goal of the match in the 60th minute. Following a corner kick by Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg headed the ball towards the goal, and Zerboni, standing right in front of Barnhart, lifted her foot to flick it into the back of the net.
“We knew coming out that they would be a great defense. We knew we just had to press them hard and get the ball and go at them,” Hatch said of finally breaking through in the second half.
It was Zerboni’s second goal of the season. She scored the first goal in North Carolina Courage history in Week 1’s 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit.
FC Kansas City forward Sydney Leroux, who won Player of the Week after scoring two goals last week, was limited to just one shot on goal.
“It was a tough game. It was a hard loss for us for sure,” Leroux said on Lifetime after the game. “We have to definitely go back home and figure it out. We did some good things, but it was a tough game.”
North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland made her second start of the season and earned her second shutout, making three saves in the win.
The Courage had gone 1-3 in their last four games before Saturday’s win, allowing nine goals over that span after allowing just one goal in the first four games of the season.
“We want to go into the break feeling like we earned it and feeling like some of the players can take a couple days off and some of us can go off with our national teams and feel really good about how we’ve been playing,” Courage midfielder Sam Mewis said after the game on Lifetime. “I think we did that.”
Following this weekend’s games, the NWSL will take a break during the upcoming FIFA international games window. North Carolina’s next game will be at home vs. the Breakers on Saturday, June 17.