- Thanks to one half of the North Carolina’s Brazilian duo, the Courage are back above the playoff line in the NWSL
- Let’s dive deeper into North Carolina’s impressive turnaround the season
This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.
It was a chaotic weekend in the NWSL, and the playoff race is still in full swing. At this point, four teams have officially clinched the playoffs: Portland Thorns, OL Reign, Kansas City Current, and San Diego Wave. The Current and Wave are playoff first-timers, while the Thorns and Reign are regulars in the postseason.
With those four teams securing playoff berths, and NJ/NY Gotham, Washington Spirit, Racing Louisville, and Orlando Pride already eliminated, four teams are left vying for the final two playoff spots. One of those teams is the North Carolina Courage, who spent 12 consecutive weeks at the bottom of the NWSL standings. Now, with just one game remaining in the regular season, the Courage have found themselves above the playoff-elimination line for the first time this season.
How did they get here? Let’s get into it.
The Courage took on NJ/NY Gotham FC at Wake-Med Soccer Park in the first game of the weekend, and it was a wild ride. Kerolin Nicoli, who is one-half of the Courage’s impressive Brazilian duo, was sidelined with a right-thigh injury. But fortunately for North Carolina, the other half of that duo took care of business. You already know we’re talking about Debinha.
Debinha scored her first-ever NWSL hat trick, which was also the first individual three-goal performance for North Carolina since 2019. The goal that broke the scoreless deadlock and ultimately served as the game-winner came in the 27th minute off a perfect ball from Carson Pickett. Pickett played a curving ball around Gotham’s defense into the path of Debinha, who touched around goalkeeper Michelle Betos before finding the back of the net. Pickett’s now back at the top of the NWSL assists table for the year, tied with Chicago’s Mallory Pugh (6).
Ryan Williams and Tess Boade, who was in the front-line in place of an injured Kerolin Nicoli, assisted Debinha’s other finishes. Those were Williams’ third assist of the season and Boade’s first.
Debinha has notched five goals in her last two games, which brings her regular-season goal tally to 12. That’s best on the Courage and second in the NWSL, only behind Alex Morgan’s 15 goals. What’s more is Debinha has now scored more goals this season than in any other season of her career.
Debinha’s three goals put the Courage’s goals-for value at 46 for the season, level with Portland for best in the league. North Carolina’s goal differential is now second-best in the league, only behind the Thorns, which is good news for a team that struggled defensively during their bottom-of-the-table stretch.
Thanks to the rest of the weekend’s results, which included Portland blanking Chicago 3-0 and Racing Louisville stealing points from Angel City in come-from-behind fashion, the Courage are now in control of their own destiny. With a win at San Diego in the regular season finale, North Carolina will clinch the playoffs. If their last two games are any indication, Debinha will come up big in that one, too, so we should keep an eye on her next weekend.
Data courtesy of StatsPerform.