Yuri’s Season is Over
Bad news for the Courage comes on the eve of their game against Boston: Japanese international Yuri Kawamura has suffered a right ACL and meniscus tear, ending her inaugural season with the team. The injury occurred when Kawamura collided with Alyssa Mautz in the 32nd minute of the loss to Chicago last Saturday. Yuri had been a stalwart anchor at left back in the 3-back defensive scheme that the Courage play, and it is unlikely that there is a suitable one-to-one replacement for her on the roster. Yuri had started 7 and played in all 8 games this season, where she consistently shut down attacks, controlled the ball, and found outlet passes down the sidelines.
Yuri, like attacking midfielder Debhina, was added to fill one of the four international slots that each team has during the off-season (Rosana of Brazil and Abby Erceg of New Zealand are the other international players for the Courage). Her presence had turned one of the worst defensive teams from 2016 into one of the best in 2017, and her stout defense and good decision-making have allowed the 3-back system to prosper. Without her, coach Paul Riley will probably switch back to a 4-back, although the last few formations we have attempted have been head-scratchers. Ideally the replacement lineup would have Erceg and Dahlkemper at center back with Taylor Smith and Jaelene Hinkle at right and left back respectively. This lineup would be the smallest deviation from the formations that have earned the Courage their place atop the NWSL standings. The midfield of Mewis, Zerboni, Doniak and Debhina and the forwards McDonald and Williams would remain unchanged in this scenario.
Hatch Heads to Sweden
In addition to Kawamura, the Courage will also be without second-overall draft selection Ashley Hatch for the game on Saturday. Hatch was one of seven NWSL players that were selected for the U-23 USWNT for their tournament in Sweden. Most of the players left on June 1st to train before the games on the 6th, 9th and 12th. This means that Hatch will be unavailable when the Courage face FC Kansas City this Saturday. Hatch has entered six games this season as a substitute, usually replacing Jess McDonald, but she is still seeking her first career goal.
LifeTime Game of the Week
This Saturday at 3:30 the Courage will face FC Kansas City in their first nationally televised game of the season. The Blues are riding a two game winning streak after beating the Washington Spirit in two consecutive games. FCKC is finding it difficult to score this season, with just 7 goals in 7 games, 4 of which came against the last place Spirit. Forward Sydney Leroux is being asked to carry too much of the scoring load for FCKC so far this season after missing all of last season while she cared for her newborn. The defense for the Blues is one of the best in the league, having allowed just 5 goals on the season.
The Courage will hope to rebound from another loss to the Chicago Red Stars last Saturday. The 3-2 defeat marked the third loss in four games for North Carolina after they allowed just one goal in their four victories to start the season. The injury to defender Yuri Kawamura won’t help the suddenly porous defense, and keeper Sabrina D’Angelo has allowed 3 goals in each of her last three starts (she did not play in the victory over Sky Blue). The team will need to show more structure and discipline if they want to earn the full 3 points this weekend.
I believe this game will end in a 1-1 draw. I don’t think the defense will be able to earn their 5th clean sheet of the season so soon after losing Kawamura, but I know our offense is strong enough to score at least once. The Courage are the only team that has not been shut out this season.