NC Courage forced to travel during Florence, team president blasts decision

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A league decision will force the NC Courage to gather its players and staff in the middle of Hurricane Florence and fly cross-country for a playoff semifinal while forfeiting the home-field advantage the Courage earned by a wide margin, and the team president isn’t happy about it.

The NWSL announced Friday that the semifinal the Courage was scheduled to host on Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars will be moved to Portland, Ore., on Tuesday because of the storm, prompting team president Curt Johnson to criticize the league on Twitter.

“This decision puts great pressure on our staff/players/coaches etc to prepare for trip in midst of storm,” Johnson tweeted. “No decision is better than bad one. Safety remains our priority for all involved. I’m baffled & disappointed for our Courage family.”

With the storm approaching the Triangle, the team had told its players and employees to stay home Friday in the expectation the game would be postponed and played in Cary after the storm passed, not moved across the country on short notice. Now, the Courage has only three days to prepare and travel for a playoff game in the middle of a massive hurricane.

Johnson and owner Stephen Malik did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The Courage romped through the NWSL regular season with a 17-1-6 record and 57 points, a massive 15 ahead of the second-place Portland Thorns. With the championship game previously scheduled for Portland on Saturday, Sept. 22, the Courage now faces the possibility of playing both a semifinal and the championship on the Thorns’ home field – the latter potentially against the Thorns, who would also have three extra days of rest.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947,, @LukeDeCock