Carson Pickett on winning his first NWSL trophy with North Carolina Courage: ‘Everyone here is really special’

When the North Carolina Courage recently won the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup for a franchise-record seventh title, it was the first time defender Carson Pickett walked away with a trophy. The seven-year veteran of the league joined Courage last season before becoming an integral part of the streak that ended with a 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit in the Challenge Cup final.

Picket recorded two assists in seven games at the tournament and led the team in chances created with 15. For her efforts, she was named to the Challenge Cup All-Tournament team along with teammates Abby Erceg and Debinha.

After a career that spanned three continents, with stops in the United States, Australia and Europe, Pickett now has some silver in the NWSL and recently sat down with CBS Sports Attacking Third to discuss North Carolina’s Challenge Cup run. North and how it feels to finally be a champion.

“This club is known for winning championships and unfortunately I haven’t won many of them as a professional. So being on this team, I knew when I got here that at some point I was going to win a championship, and I’m very proud of the group,” she said. “I’m going to be honest, when we started the preseason, we weren’t sure how it was going to go, we were just losing so many amazing players… I think everyone here is really special, and the group [has] come together so well So to be able to win the Challenge Cup Championship was just amazing.”

During the latter half of the 2021 season, the Courage were rocked by scandal off the field as headlines about their former coach Paul Riley detailed sexual misconduct stemming from 2015 that overshadowed the rest of their season. Sean Nahas was named interim head coach when the Courage snuck into the 2021 playoffs as the sixth seed and were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the eventual 2021 champion Washington Spirit.

During the offseason, the franchise saw the departure of USWNT players Samantha Mewis, Lynn Williams, and Jessica McDonald. Nahas was named head coach, and the club welcomed new additions Kiki Pickett and Brazilian international Kerolin Nicoli, who was the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Finals MVP. And they also built the 2022 NWSL draft. .

Rookie Diana Ordoñez was recruited from the University of Virginia and in more than five Challenge Cup appearances she created five chances and scored the game-winning goal during the semifinal against the Kansas City Current. Early contributions have impressed Pickett.

“I’ll be the first to say, and I’ve also passed it, nothing can prepare you for the NWSL. College doesn’t prepare you for that, even if you’re on the best team. The speed at which the NWSL is played is simply unheard of. And you just can’t prepare for it,” he said.

“So I think the things we look at the most in rookies coming in is how they react to adversity, and how they can quickly cope and compensate for all the different things, speed and things like that, and coming up against the best players in the league. . Watching them grow each day has been incredible. But they’re working, and I appreciate the people who want to be here and want to do their best for the team and I think that’s what all of our rookies have brought to the table for sure.”

Before the Challenge Cup final, the league announced a new partnership with UKG to be the main sponsor of the Challenge Cup, which meant an increase in the bonus fund. As a result, Courage players will receive a bonus of $10,000. Pickett, who started playing at a time when $10,000 was more than the minimum salary during his rookie season in 2016, referred to the bonus as “life changing” for some players. She also believes that the new CBA is already changing things for the next generation of players.

The minimum salary is now $35,000, with 4% annual raises, and players don’t have to worry about playing on courts that don’t meet regulatory standards, something Pickett also experienced during her rookie year when her former club played in a narrow field, which was smaller than the regulation dimensions.

“I think that’s one of the most important things about the CBA. It’s almost sad that it has to be there because we should never be playing on the baseball field anyway, but the fact that we had to put that almost says something about how the league has grown just because there was no real standard before, no I think in certain areas,” he said.

“And now these young women will never have to play in a university or somewhere where there are no showers, no locker rooms, and things like that. So I’m thankful that the CBA has passed and there are so many amazing things these girls are experiencing.”