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North Carolina Courage: Three players powering unlikely playoff push

North Carolina Courage midfielder Debinha has scored seven goals in the last five weeks. (Jaylynn Nash/USA TODAY Sports)

The North Carolina Courage have made an unlikely playoff push, surging from last place in the NWSL standings and into playoff position in just five weeks.

The stark turnaround has the Courage in sixth place and in control of their own destiny. With a win Friday against the San Diego Wave, they would clinch a spot in the six-team bracket.

Just Women’s Sports takes a look at three of the players who have helped power North Carolina’s playoff push as we enter the final weekend of the NWSL regular season.


The 30-year-old Brazilian star has gone on a tear, scoring five goals in the last two games to help propel North Carolina to their current position.

Debinha would not be denied in Orlando on Sept. 21, scoring two of the Courage’s three goals. Then, against NJ/NY Gotham FC on Saturday, she scored all three of the goals in their 3-0 win to secure the hat trick and continue to rocket North Carolina up the standings.

Her hat trick was the first for the Courage since 2019.

Her performance has earned praise from the likes of Carli Lloyd, who called her “world class.” She also now sits tied for second in the race for the Golden Boot with 12 goals, just three behind San Diego’s Alex Morgan (15).

Diana Ordóñez

Diana Ordóñez has had a rookie season to remember. In August, she broke the NWSL rookie record for most goals in a season, and she has since added four more to bring her total to 11. The 21-year-old currently sits fourth behind Morgan, Debinha, and Sophia Smith.

All her goals have come from inside the penalty area, an impressive feat for a rookie. Yet just one has come from the penalty spot. Five of Morgan’s 15 have come from the spot — take those away, and she and Ordóñez are tied at 10.

After being selected sixth overall in the 2021 NWSL Draft, Ordóñez has put herself firmly in Rookie of the Year position.

“I think the response from the team this half of the season has been nothing short of extremely impressive,” Ordóñez told On Her Turf. “Everyone’s really bought in and wants to give ourselves the best chance to make the playoffs… At this point, we’re just worried about controlling what we can control.”

Carson Pickett

Defender Carson Pickett has been dangerous this season, providing a league-leading six assists while scoring a goal of her own. A key piece of the Courage’s resurgence, she’s earned three straight NWSL Best XI monthly honors while juggling time with the U.S. women’s national team.

During Sunday’s match, she provided a key assist on one of Debinha’s goals with a pass that proved just how skilled she is.

Her success rate on passes this season sits at 77.2 percent, with a 43.9 percent success rate on long passes. With a total of 153 crosses completed, Pickett leads the league.