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NC Courage sign goalkeeper Sam Leshnak, waive two centerbacks

The North Carolina Courage announced a series of roster moves Thursday, signing goalkeeper Sam Leshnak to a longer deal, while cutting four other players.

North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley reacts during a game vs. Orlando on April 17, 2019 in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam, Pro Soccer USA)
North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley reacts during a game vs. Orlando on April 17, 2019 in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam, Pro Soccer USA)

The North Carolina Courage announced a series of roster moves Thursday ahead of their nationally-televised contest this weekend against the Chicago Red Stars.

Goalkeeper Sam Leshnak was signed to a contract that will keep her with the club through the remainder of the 2019 season. Additionally, World Cup replacement players Peyton Perea and Shannon Horgan were released and the club waived defenders Julie King and Ally Haran.

Perea and Horgan will continue to train with the team and are candidates for future national team replacement contracts, according to club statement. Neither player appeared in a game for the club. Perea, a Wake Forest product, did not play in a match for the Courage. Head coach Paul Riley cited her “excellent soccer IQ” and “calming presence” when she was added to the roster. Horgan played at Clemson and professionally in Sweden.

King, 29, has 95 NWSL appearances, all with the now-defunct Boston Breakers, where she tallied six goals and three assists in five seasons. The Courage acquired King through the 2018 dispersal draft after the Breakers folded, but she dealt with an ankle injury and never played for the club.

Haran, 23, is also a product of Wake Forest. She spent the first year of her professional career in Iceland with UMF Selfoss. She signed with the Courage prior to the start of the 2019 season.

Both King and Haran play centerback. During preseason camp, Riley knew he would be without starters Abby Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper while they played in the World Cup for New Zealand and the U.S., respectively. Riley said back in March, that one of the open centerback spots in his four-back set would go to Kaleigh Kurtz, while the other spot would likely go to King or Haran. But neither played a minute for the Courage this year. Instead, Riley relied on Cari Roccaro, who typically plays in the midfield, to fill in on the back line.

Leshnak, 22, was another fringe reserve player coming into this season, but impressed during opportunities she received. Undrafted out of the University of North Carolina, Leshnak came in as the third-string goalkeeper, behind Katelyn Rowland and Canadian national teamer Stephanie Labbe. But while Labbe was at the World Cup, Rowland battled a short stint of injuries and poor form and Leshnak stepped in.

The Courage got a result in both June matches she started, taking a 3-0 road win over the Orlando Pride and drawing 1-1 with the Portland Thorns. Leshnak faced 13 shots, tallied four saves and notched a passing accuracy of 63 percent.

With Labbe back and Rowland in better form, Leshnak is back in her reserve role. But she made clear she can step up for the Courage and play well if needed.

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