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Match Preview: Seattle Reign vs. NC Courage

The Reign head on the road again, searching for a result after losing four straight.

Last Updated
5 min read
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, Seattle Reign heads on the road again and will be looking to put in a 90-minute performance and snap a four-game losing streak. On April 27, the Reign face the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The match kicks off at 4 PM PT and will air on KONG-TV in addition to streaming on the KING 5+ app and NWSL+.

Claudia Dickey and Jordyn Huitema continue to recover from their knee and back injuries. Head coach Laura Harvey said both are "weeks, not days away" at this point but are trending in a positive direction. The team hopes to get them back into training in mid-May.

Recent Results

Both teams are coming off 2-1 losses, with the Reign losing at home to the Red Stars and the Courage falling to Angel City on the road. In that match, the Courage created plenty of chances but couldn't finish them.

Head to Head

The Reign are 3-10-3 all-time against the Courage and have a 1-8-0 road record.

Quick Stats

  • The Courage (3-2-0) have scored 10 goals and conceded 5.
  • The Reign (1-4-0) have scored 5 times and conceded 8 goals.
  • North Carolina is a tough place to travel to and get results. The Courage are unbeaten in 12 straight home regular season contests (7W, 5D), including a perfect 3-0-0 home record to start 2024.

What to Watch

North Carolina likes to have the ball

Under head coach Sean Nahas, the Courage has become a team that controls the match through possession. In their first five matches, North Carolina has had as low as 50% possession (versus Gotham) and as high as 68% possession (against Utah). They lead the NWSL in passes attempted and completed.

Expect the Courage to move the ball swiftly, usually taking no more than two touches before they pass. If a pass isn't there, a Courage player will often dribble into space to pull a defender with them or create space to find a teammate. North Carolina leads the league in progressive carries.

While the Courage use their backline a lot in possession, they also have plenty of touches higher up the field – combining to create space and then making that progressive pass forward. In fact, North Carolina has the most touches in their attacking penalty box and the third-most touches in their attacking third.

"I think their philosophy of how they like to play means that we have to be collectively ready to defend as a team to try and stop their threats. And I think when teams have done that against Carolina, they frustrated them, hurt them in transitional moments and got opportunities against them," Harvey said. "If you don't do that against them, it can be a really long 90 minutes. They move the ball really well and play a brilliant style of football, in my opinion."

A withdrawn No. 9

While North Carolina lines up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, their center forward plays more as a withdrawn forward alongside their No. 10, which is typically filled by Ashley Sanchez. Take a look at their passing map against Angel City – shared on Twitter/X by @NWSLStat.

Graphic shared on Twitter/X by @NWSLStat

As the graphic illustrates, their fullbacks and attacking wing players stay wide, while North Carolina's two holding midfielders create lovely passing triangles with the centerback and fullback on one side of the field. Meanwhile, striker Manaka Matsukubo drops into the midfield to hold up the ball and link with teammates.

Take a look at Manaka's heat map from North Carolina's last two matches against Angel City and the Portland Thorns, courtesy of Sofascore. She was comfortable dropping much deeper against the Thorns to build the attack, while she operated in left attacking channels against Angel City.

Manaka Matsukubo heat map, from Sofascore

Sanchez plays a similar role, but she also looks for that final pass into the box – leading the Courage in chances created and crosses. The Reign can't give her this much time to operate freely in the midfield and get crosses off.

"They'll have their nines and tens be a little bit more false and centerbacks probably have to step in with them," defender Alana Cook said. "It's a different challenge, different style. We've been scouting that all week and working on that and seeing the different patterns of defending that we think will work. So we feel pretty confident going in that we've been able to see what other teams have done against them that's been successful or not successful and looked to kind of tweak and repeat some of those patterns and put our own kind of spin on it."

Better decision-making in the final third

While the Reign sit toward the bottom of the league table in chances created and expected goals, the team is getting into dangerous spots in their final third. The Reign have completed the third-most passes into the final third and the third-most passes into the penalty box. They've also completed the third-most progressive passes. They're moving the ball forward well but haven't been able to get that final pass right on a consistent basis.

As Harvey said ahead of Saturday's match, the team has been focused on making the right decision on the pass when they get the ball into dangerous attacking zones.

"I think type of cross. Decision to cross. There's some that we shouldn't. I think there's some that we should and we don't. I think recognizing who's where. If you want to put a ball up for a 50/50 header and it's Emeri [Adames] competing, probably not the best, but if it's [Bethany] Balcer competing, do it. I think that that is part of it," Harvey said about the team's lack of goals in several matches.

Harvey believes the team is close.

"The Jess [Fishlock] cross that just misses the post, Balcer and Veronica [Latsko] are in brilliant positions, just can't quite get there. Emeri's comes off a set piece. Great volley, save of the week. Emeri's when Alyssa saves it near post, Balcer's wide open in the middle of six."

"There's lots of little things that I think we keep talking about that when we get them right, we're going to go from having that one tremendous finish by Zee to having multiple, and hopefully that's tomorrow."

Injury / Availability Report

Seattle Reign

OUT: Claudia Dickey (knee), Jordyn Huitema (back)

North Carolina Courage

OUT: Sydney Collins (D45 – ankle), Julia Dorsey (knee), Estelle Johnson (maternity leave), Kerolin Nicoli (SEI – knee), Clara Schilke (SEI – lower leg), Meredith Speck (SEI – knee), Olivia Wingate (knee)

How to Watch

Seattle Reign kicks off against the North Carolina Courage on Saturday at 4 PM PT. The match will air on KONG-TV locally. Fans in Seattle can also stream the match for free on the KING 5+ app, while all other fans can watch on NWSL+.