We all know that the North Carolina Courage are great. They are dynamic, driven, and talented. No one is denying that. In fact, it is the exact opposite. People are talking about them as though they are untouchable. This week on The Scouting Report it was even stated that they could have a chance at going undefeated this season. Whether that is true or not still remains to be seen, but there is something about this team that makes us hope that they could. Could this be the NWSL’s version of the 1972 Miami Dolphins? It could be, but it is likely not possible for any team—there are a lot of variables and factors that come into play throughout the course of the season. No team is untouchable.
Here are five simple reasons why North Carolina isn’t the exception:
Like any great sports team, there will be moments when their guard will be down. When they are so confident in their abilities that what seems like the simplest of games can turn into a team’s worst nightmare. These are moments of complacency—when all the kinks are worked out, and the team is running like a well-oiled machine, but the issue becomes another team running faster. North Carolina has a fantastic mental game and outlook on the season. I mean, even their slogan for this year is #nofinishline. But anyone who has ever run a long-distance race will tell you that some miles will be better than others. You get into a groove, you grow content, you slow down, you recognize the change, and then you speed back up. The same will most likely happen for North Carolina. They will hit a rough patch at some point—even if for just a game—and then they will come back with the forcefulness we all know they possess.
2. Peak Too Soon
As can be seen with so many teams throughout the history of the game, sometimes teams just peak too soon. Look at the Chicago Red Stars last season. There was a moment when they looked so dominant that it was said that they would definitely win the NWSL Championship… and that didn’t happen. They peaked too soon. It may not happen to North Carolina. There are a lot of factors that come into play. But it can be said that they came into this season in much better form than any other team. They are working as a cohesive unit, while other teams are still trying to find all the parts.
3. The Injury Bug
No team is safe from the injury bug! North Carolina doesn’t have Sam Mewis right now because of it. And statistically speaking, Sam Mewis’s current injury probably will not be the last for the club this year, because things happen. Things that are outside of anyone’s control. It’s why no team can ever be considered untouchable. And when players have to sit out and are no longer an option, it can create holes that other teams are able to exploit. North Carolina doesn’t have a bad bench to replace from, but it isn’t necessarily Portland’s. And not all of the skillsets of players are interchangeable. No one else on the team can do what McCall Zerboni can do. No one else on the team can do what Crystal Dunn can do. So, if major a major injury occurs, that can sometimes mean a major change in playing strategy, and that can take some getting used to.
4. Rosters At Full Strength
I put forth earlier that North Carolina is playing considerably better than the other teams. They are a collective force, while other teams haven’t quite gotten there. But the other teams are working toward that, and they are getting better. They are also going to be getting a lot more talent once their rosters are at full strength. Take Chicago for example. They have won two games this season, but they have done so without Julie Ertz, Danielle Colaprico, and Sam Kerr. Orlando is currently missing Marta, Poliana, and Alanna Kennedy. So comparing North Carolina’s roster to that of other teams definitely bodes well for the Courage, but things may change once other teams have their complete arsenals at their disposal.
When a team is really good it is often said that something is “theirs to lose.” And for North Carolina, that certainly could be the case with regards to the potential punishment for not releasing Debinha back to Brazil for her international duty on time. The facts surrounding the situation are still a bit hazy, but the fact of the matter is that Debinha played in the March 31 match against Sky Blue when she should not have. No punishment has come down yet, but it would be a shame if North Carolina were to lose three points because of failure to follow the rules. It is these types of mistakes that are completely avoidable. It is what can take a spotless season and give it an asterisk.
There are plenty of scenarios in which North Carolina can be beaten—just like any team in this league can be beaten. Sure, they are stronger than most. They are focused, and headstrong, and extremely skilled. They are the complete package as of right now. But things can change in this league and in this game very quickly. That’s why it isn’t advised to count one team out, or to tally the win before the final whistle. Lots of things can occur, and the players are only human. No one is indestructible. No one is untouchable. Not even North Carolina.