In this edition of Oppo Research, Hudson River Blue spoke with Tyler Trent of TopBin90 to learn more about North Carolina Courage, Gotham FC‘s opponent in the Quarterfinals of the 2023 NWSL Playoffs this Sunday. Here is your Gotham FC vs North Carolina Courage preview.
1. Positivity is still there
Hudson River Blue: The North Carolina Courage have one win in their last four games and only scored 3 goals. That one win was last week’s 0-1 away win against the Washington Spirit. What’s the vibe in the seats at WakeMed Soccer Park these days?
Tyler Trent: I think there’s still a lot of positivity throughout the fanbase. They’ve played some tough teams in the final stretch of matches and while the final results weren’t always there, the style of play has held strong and the effort has never lapsed.
2. The defense is a powerhouse
HRB: North Carolina have the second-fewest goals conceded per match in the NWSL and have a league-leading 10 clean sheets. What has been to key to the team’s strong defense?
TT: I think there are two main reasons for this.
First, the Courage has a very underrated defensive unit overall and one of the most underrated players in the league in Ryan Williams.
Second, the entire team has bought into Sean Nahas’s system, and the defending starts up top.
While Kerolin is the “star player” of the team, it’s a very well-rounded team from top to bottom, including the bench. The ladies give everything for 90 minutes in every match and fight for each other, and it really shows in the stats for the Courage this season defensively.
I feel like you also have to mention the possession stats for the Courage as well as an aspect in their strong defense – if your opponent doesn’t have the ball, they can’t score.
3. Manaka Matsukubo and Tess Boade are dangerous
HRB: Brazilian forward Kerolin has scored 10 goals, which is one shy of Golden Boot winner Sophia Smith. Tyler Lussi has 6 goals and is a threat on the wing. Who else should Gotham FC be worried about on Sunday?
TT: Manaka Matsukubo and Tess Boade have been showing great interplay to close out the season, and I think both are capable of changing a game quickly with their creativity.
4. The X-Factor: Who will step up?
HRB: What’s the X-factor that could decide Sunday’s match?
TT: Someone needs to step up and continue Kerolin’s offensive output, assuming she is out. The Courage did very well without the World Cup players this year, and there are players on the team capable of creating big moments – in a playoff game like this, you need someone to step up.
5. Predicted Starting XI
HRB: Prediction time: Starting XI? Final score?
TT: I think it’ll be a tight game, but the Courage will come out with a 2-1 victory.