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2017 Preview: North Carolina Courage
2016 MVP Williams, McDonald and Mewis lead the North Carolina offense
Lynn Williams scored 11 regular season goals and added 3 more in the playoffs. (Photo credit: Wilf Thorne/isiphotos.com)
Lynn Williams scored 11 regular season goals and added 3 more in the playoffs. (Photo credit: Wilf Thorne/isiphotos.com)

North Carolina begins 2017 with high hopes as the team charts a new course after being relocated from Western New York in the offseason. Reigning MVP Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald look to continue their offensive magic with the Courage.

 

2016 totals (with rank)

Overall record: 9-6-5, 32 pts (4th)

Goals for: 40 (1st)

Goals against: 26 6th)

Home record: 6-3-1 (tied for 4th)

Away record:  3-3-4 (6th)

 

Key returners

Lynn Williams (11 goals, 5 assists)

Jessica McDonald (10 goals, 7 assists)

Sam Mewis (5 goals, 2 assists)

Abby Erceg (2 goals, 1 assists)

 

The North Carolina offense is led by Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald, who powered a truly dominant attack last season with the Flash as their team became just the third side in NWSL history to average two or more goals per game. Midfielder Samantha Mewis, who scored twice in the playoffs last season, will also be a key player for the Courage this season. Coach Paul Riley relied heavily on the U.S. international in the center of his midfield and North Carolina fans can expect to see a lot of the emerging talent this season.

The Courage will look to Abby Erceg to provide stability and veteran leadership at the back. The central defender, who retired from international soccer for the New Zealand Women’s National Team following the 2017 Cyprus Cup in March, played in all but three matches for her NWSL club last season and Riley will undoubtedly look to her and fellow defender Abby Dahlkemper to lead the backline.

 

 

New additions

Debinha (Dalian Quanjian)

Rosana (Paris Saint-Germain)

Yuri Kawamura (Vegalta Sendai Ladies)

 

As if the North Carolina attack wasn’t scary enough already, the Courage doubled down on offense during the offseason with the acquisitions of Brazil internationals Debinha and Rosana.

Both were members of the Brazil side that finished fourth as hosts at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Debinha, 25, entered 2017 as the No. 7 scorer all-time for the Brazil national team with 21 goals in 54 international appearances and spent 2016 playing her club soccer with Chinese club Dalian Quanjian.

Rosana, 34, finished 2016 with 112 international appearances and the winger scored three goals in 10 games for French club Paris Saint-Germain last year.

On April 4, the Courage acquired defender and Japanese International Yuri Kawamura who have appeared in 32 games for Japan since she began with the national team in 2010. You can expect that Kawamura’s international experience, she will be a solid addition to the defense.

 

Draft picks

 

 

Round 1, No. 2 overall: Ashley Hatch (F, BYU)

Round 1, No. 7 overall: Darian Jenkins (F/M, UCLA)

Round 2, No. 20 overall: Claire Wagner (D, Clemson)

Round 3, No. 27 overall: Jaycie Johnson (F/M, Nebraska)

 

The Courage had two picks in the first-round of the 2017 NWSL College Draft and used both picks to go back to the well on offense with BYU forward and U-23 U.S. international Ashley Hatch (No. 2 overall) as well as UCLA attacker Darian Jenkins (No. 7 overall).

North Carolina also picked up Clemson product Claire Wagner, who should provide added depth on defense and her 10 goals during her college career indicate she could be a good fit for a team that ranked second in set piece goals last season.

 

 

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