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N.C. Courage’s Merritt Mathias says she’s out for the season with ACL injury

Mathias had dished out five assists in 20 starts this season.

N.C. Courage right back Merritt Mathias celebrates an assist on July 5, 2019 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

The North Carolina Courage will have to march on for the rest of the season without a key player and regular starter.

In a pair of tweets posted Thursday morning, Merritt Mathias said she suffered a torn ACL during the Courage’s 1-0 win over the Houston Dash on Tuesday and that she will need season-ending surgery to repair it. Mathias appeared to have suffered the injury during a play in the 71st minute, in which Dash forward Rachel Daly struck Mathias near her left knee while battling for possession of the ball.

Mathias did not mince words when describing her opinion of the play that led to her injury.

“I did not tear my ACL.. My ACL was torn for me.. I did not (misstep).. My foot did not ‘get stuck’.. It was not a (freak) accident.. My plant leg was intentionally kicked.. I was awarded a foul, and Houston awarded a free-kick,” Mathias said in the tweets, one of which accompanied a video of the play. “It is due to a lack of respect that I will not be finishing my season with the @TheNCCourage. I will be getting surgery while my team takes on playoffs. It is because of your lack of respect, that I can respectfully say, (expletive) You.”

Mathias was subbed off minutes after the play for veteran Heather O’Reilly.

A team spokesperson for the Courage could not confirm the severity of Mathias’ injury, as they had not spoken with the club’s medical staff as of Thursday morning.

Mathias, 29, has been with the Courage since last season and has been integral to their success. On one end of the pitch, she has provided stout defending at right back. But on the attack, she can turn into an explosive and speedy winger who can lob balls into the box for the Courage’s forwards.

In 2018, during the Courage’s treble run, Mathias tallied three goals and two assists over 22 starts. This season she had dished out five assists over 20 starts. The North Carolina Tar Heels’ product had also racked up 19 interceptions, three blocks, 38 tackles, 35 clearances and a 51 percent winning rate on her duels. Mathias was also third on the team in minutes played, trailing only Denise O’Sullivan and Jaelene Hinkle.

For the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs, Courage head coach Paul Riley may have to lean on O’Reilly and Cari Rocarro at right back.

O’Reilly, who is retiring at the end of this season, started on Saturday in the Courage’s 6-1 win over the Orlando Pride. Rocarro has played in 11 games this season, filling in at centerback, fullback and in the defensive midfield.

The first-place Courage are on the road this weekend, set to take on the Utah Royals at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.

 

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