A sluggish offensive attack plus a couple of defensive breakdowns equaled the end of FC Kansas City’s four-game unbeaten streak on Saturday in Cary, N.C.
The North Carolina Courage maintained its top spot in the NWSL standings by scoring twice in the second half and beating FCKC 2-0.
“They were more physical than us all over the field, and they were better in winning the 50-50 tackles,” said FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski. “We knew they were going to come out pressing us high and knew we were going to have get out of there with quick and sharp passes.
“We didn’t do a good enough job at that and we didn’t maintain possession as much as we wanted and the game turned into playing more defense than offense.”
The Courage, 6-0-3, got on the board in the 60th minute off a corner kick that was a combination of strength and finesse.
When the ball was delivered, 5-foot-10 Abby Erseg leaped over the FC Kansas City defense in the back of the penalty area and sent a powerful header toward the goal. McCall Zerboni got a foot on the ball about 6 yards from goal for a nifty redirection that got past FCKC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Seven minutes later, the Courage’s Lynn Williams delivered a clinical ball from the left wing past three FCKC defenders to Ashley Hatch, who found herself all alone in the penalty box with Barnhart. Hatch didn’t waste the opportunity and fired a shot into the back of the net.
In the first half, the Courage came the closest to scoring, with a shot that hit the post after a free kick, but the Blues, 3-3-2, had the best chance at a goal. Sydney Leroux had a one-on-one opportunity in the 40th minute, but her shot was pushed over the crossbar by goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland.
“I thought that was a classic counterattack,” Andonovski said. “We did a good job putting ourselves in a good situation. We expect Sydney to score those goals, but you’ve got to give credit to the goalkeeper. She made a good save. That’s the game of soccer, you score some and you miss some.”
There was one positive for FCKC: Barnhart got her 300th career save in the 30th minute when she stoned Taylor Smith’s shot.
Courage 2, FC Kansas City 0
KANSAS CITY: Nicole Barnhart, Christian Gibbons, Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Brittany Taylor, Desiree Scott, Lo’eau LaBonta (Maegan Kelly, 76th), Katie Bowen (Becca Moros, 17th), Brittany Ratcliffe (Erika Tymrak, 69th), Shea Groom, Sydney Leroux.
NORTH CAROLINA: Katelyn Rowland, Taylor Smith, Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Jaelene Hinkle, Debinha de Oliveira (Rosana Dos Santos Augusto, 86th), Samantha Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Makenzy Doniak (Kristen Hamilton, 70th), Ashley Hatch (Elizabeth Eddy, 76th), Lynn Williams.
Kansas City: None.
North Carolina: 1, Zerboni (Erceg), 60th minute. 2, Hatch (Williams), 67th minute.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: Sauerbrunn, 43rd.
North Carolina: Hatch, 13th; Zerboni, 57th.