Tomorrow afternoon at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, NC, the North Carolina Courage will kick off for the final time in 2019. It has been a season complete of ups and downs, but the group has persevered. Now they face their final challenge. The ultimate boss battle. The Chicago Red Stars.

The Courage are extremely familiar with the Red Stars. They’ve played 11 occasions in the final 3 seasons which includes two prior playoff matches. The present series record is 3W-3D-5L from the Courage point of view, and the 12th game will be pivotal in writing the history of each teams. If the Courage come out on top rated, it will prove that their lackluster common season performances imply nothing at all. They will have knocked Chicago out of the playoffs 3 years operating, and the group will safe their second NWSL title in a row. Pair that with the back-to-back-to-back NWSL Shield wins, and it will be challenging for any one to query the dominance of the Courage. If Chicago wins, they will hold a commanding general lead in the series with six wins in twelve games. They will also dethrone the Courage as the greatest group in the league and carry an further sense of objective into the 2020 season. Head coach Rory Dames will cement his location as one particular of the greatest coaches in the league, and Chicago’s playoff curse will officially be lifted. To place it merely there’s a lot riding on this game.

Chicago has all the pieces essential to beat the Courage

There is a fantastic explanation for the accomplishment that Chicago has shown against the Courage. They are pure class from top rated to bottom and they have a quantity of players who actually excel at what they do. No group in the league rises to the occasion greater than Chicago when they face the Courage.

Arguably the most vital piece of the puzzle is superstar forward Sam Kerr. Rumored to be heading overseas for a seven-digit paycheck subsequent season, Kerr is seeking to cap off her illustrious NWSL profession with a Championship win. She is the top goalscorer in the league mainly because she has blistering pace, phenomenal ball manage, and terrific shot placement on the run. She is not the greatest tactician. She does not normally take players on with her dribbling abilities, but her physique manage makes it possible for her to build space and embarrass defenders without having as well considerably fancy footwork. She continually picks and probes at the back line, and her teammates are constantly seeking to break her into open space. She is fantastic sufficient to beat any two centerbacks and a goalkeeper on her worst day. The only challenge is that Kerr does not do a complete lot else. She presses higher and tries to force terrible plays out of the back, but she seldom moves off the front line.

North Carolina Courage v Chicago Red Stars

Photo by Daniela Porcelli/Getty Pictures

Based on how the lineup is drawn, Yuki Nagasato is either listed as a forward subsequent to Kerr or a midfielder just behind her. Either way, she has grow to be Kerr’s greatest asset and creation companion. Nagasato has a way of constantly getting Kerr although also placing herself in a position to take uncontested shots when six defenders flock to cease Kerr in the box. It is not the flashiest of jobs, but Yuki pulls it off flawlessly, and she even received eight% of the MVP voting for her efforts. Kerr, on the other hand, received about 63% and won the award.

The subsequent incredible Red Stars player is defensive midfielder Julie Ertz. Or perhaps she is a centerback? Either way, Ertz is a game-changer. She became well-known when she helped the USWNT win the 2015 Women’s Globe Cup as a CB, but then she helped the group win in 2019 as a DM. Final weekend against Portland Thorns FC she played as a CB with fellow USWNT star Morgan Brian taking up defensive midfield duties. No matter exactly where she is on the field, even though, she makes use of her size and aggression to bully players off the ball and manage their motion. She is incredibly adept at cutting out passes and generating completely timed tackles. Her talents will be considerably greater utilized in the midfield against the Courage, but I do not know that the Red Stars can afford to play her there. Tierna Davidson, yet another member of the Globe Cup-winning squad, has currently been declared out for the upcoming match, so they will almost certainly want Ertz back there to safe the line.

Without the need of turning this into a 10,000 word essay about why the Red Stars are incredible, it really should be noted that they also have Casey Brief, one particular of the greatest outdoors backs in the league, and Allyssa Naeher, who has grown into her game and constantly plays the Courage challenging. There are absolutely weak hyperlinks in the Chicago armor, even though. Sarah Gorden may possibly not have the class to manage the wings against the Courage, and Danielle Colaprico will struggle if she’s place into a defensive midfield function once more this weekend. Whoever begins at CB in location of Davidson is also going to have a challenging evening. All about, even though, the Red Stars are quite properly stacked.

Beating Chicago is extremely difficult and extremely straightforward

If the Courage can do two items they will be all but assured a win. They have to have to score straightforward shots and preserve Kerr in verify. Each of them sound super straightforward, but of course it is less difficult mentioned than carried out.

On the Kerr front, Abby Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper have to have to drop deep anytime they assume a lengthy ball is coming. Catching Kerr offside is a fool’s errand. You may possibly get her 9 occasions, but the 10th time you give up a purpose. If you drop back and impede her progress, she is not prone to beating players although on the ball. Kerr will just about constantly hold up play and wait for help or pass back to a teammate when blocked away from purpose. Limiting her solo appears is a ideal location to begin.

No group in the league misses extra sitters than the Courage. If Lynn Williams and Jess McDonald scored each and every one particular of their wide-open possibilities the Courage would be greater than Olympique Lyonnais. The forwards have an uncanny potential to hit the ball more than and about the net from 3 yards away. If they could just send these balls into the back of the net they would win this match in a landslide.

So that is all. Just manage the greatest striker in the globe and score extra ambitions. Why didn’t any one else assume of this?

Predicting the Courage Beginning XI

Unless some crazy injury shows up, the beginning lineup is set in stone. Williams and McDonald begin at forward. Debnha and Crystal Dunn begin at attacking mid. Sam Mewis and Denise O’Sullivan begin at defensive mid. Heath O’Reilly and Jaelene Hinkle begin at outdoors back. Erceg and Dahlkemper begin in the middle of the back line, and Stephanie Labbe begins in purpose. Lock it up, mainly because that is a championship winning lineup if there ever was one particular.

How to watch

The game will kick off at three:30 p.m. ET from Sahlen’s Stadum in Cary, NC. The game will be broadcast on ESPN in the United States and on ESPN affiliates in other nations about the globe. Tune in to see some of the greatest women’s players in the globe square off in the final game of 2019.