For one club, the North Carolina Courage, the season has been, thus far, a success after a championship-winning season as the Western New York Flash. The Courage has also stood at the top of the standings all season and continue to be with nine wins and five losses. Head coach Paul Riley has built a system that has allowed young players to play like veterans, and many of them have stood out to US Women's National Soccer Team head coach Jill Ellis enough to get called up to the national team. Defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Taylor Smith, midfielder Samantha Lewis, and forward Lynn Williams are all a part of the 2017 Tournament of Nations roster for next week. Despite the loss to the Portland Thorns last week, the Courage look to get back on an unbeaten streak. They have now lost two games in three games.
For FC Kansas City, after a promising 2-0 victory on opening day, which also saw the loss of Amy Rodriguez, one of its key players, to an ACL injury, the Blues began to struggle the weeks that followed. First, offensively as they struggled to score the goals needed to secure wins, and then defensively, allowing two or more goals in six of the last seven games. It is now well-known that FCKC has yet to win a game since May 27th when they defeated the Washington Spirit. The Blues have lost five games and tied two in the last seven games. After a 1-4 loss to the Orlando Pride last week, the hopes for Kansas City to reach the playoffs seem a bit dim.
FCKC vs NC: What to Look for Saturday
This is the second matchup between the two clubs this season. FCKC and the Courage first met at the beginning of June. At the time, Kansas City was on a four-game unbeaten streak. The Courage went on to win 2-0 with goals from McCall Zerboni and Ashley Hatch. It was the first loss for the Blues that would extend to the current seven-game winless streak.
That matchup was a physical one from the start as North Carolina dominated much of the possession. Look for the Courage to return to the same dominating style of possession and attacking offense led by Lynn Williams, who has three goals and 36 shots with 17 of those on goal. Rookie Ashley Hatch leads the Courage with four goals. The Courage has scored 20 goals this season. Defensively, the Courage can trust goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland who has started seven of the last eight matches at goal. She has recorded four shutouts, and the North Carolina defense has not allowed more than one goal to get past them.
Despite their struggles, FC Kansas City is still very much a strong team at home with only one loss in their six games at Children's Mercy Victory Field. Look for them to put on a stronger stance in front of their home crowd and for them to prove that they still have plenty to play for this NWSL season. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart has 57 saves on the season, and rookie Christina Gibbons shifted to central midfield the past two games, which has created opportunities for the KC offense. Expect for her to return to that central midfield position unless Vlatko Andonovski moves her back to defensive back.
Kickoff for FC Kansas City versus the North Carolina Courage is set for 9 pm ET. The game can be streamed on go90.