Hello and welcome to my new column, Unsung Heroes.
In this column, I’ll be looking to highlight a player or players that may not be household names, but were heroes and superstars to their team with their play this weekend. This will be a weekly series and depending on results each week, I may have more than one player featuring in here. Let’s get into the unsung hero from this weekend’s slate of matches.
Narumi Miura - CDM - North Carolina Courage
This week, there was one player that stood out above the others. When I went to the NWSL Draft this past January, I and my colleagues got to chat briefly with North Carolina Courage coach Sean Nahas. While they seemed pretty happy with their draft (as they should be, I could have added one of their rookie picks, Olivia Wingate to this article due to how well she played), Nahas mentioned that they had a few international players they were excited about. One of those players turned out to be Japanese international Narumi Miura. She made her debut Saturday in the official kickoff to the NWSL regular season. Miura would not be a household name for most, having played since 2018 for Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza of the WE League, the top flight WOSO league in Japan.
Miura plays as a central defensive midfielder and was slotted into that position for the North Carolina Courage at home against the Kansas City Current. NCC was starting the season with a new backline, having acquired Emily Fox in a trade with Racing Louisville for Abbey Erceg and Carson Pickett, and KiKi Pickett has yet to play a full NWSL. With Kerolin being the focal point of the Courage attack, where she was arguably their best player and caused many problems for the KC Current back line, it was Miura who dedicated the pace of the match and frustrated KC whenever they tried to go through the middle of the pitch.
Narumi Miura was as advertised in her #NWSL debut— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) March 26, 2023
3 key passes
1 shot on goal
100% tackle success
63.6% duel success
80.6% pass accuracy
Glad to have her in #CourageCountry pic.twitter.com/JyWVFtq4cA
From the statistics, her pass accuracy and duel win percentage played a large part in NCC maintaining 59% of possession and making those possessions useful. Her pass accuracy also led to the assist for the only goal of the game and her key passing also often sprang Kerolin free in attack. A force in the middle, her assist came from a run out wide, or wider, showing her versatility in attack. She touched the ball nearly 60 times (56) and helped keep the KC defensive occupied, while forcing Matt Potter and his side to adjust their attack out wide, limiting #2 draft pick Michelle Cooper from finding much joy on the ball.
It’s fair to note that these statistics come from a match where Kansas City was very short handed, particularly in their midfield, with Debinha, Morgan Gatraut, and Vanessa DiBernardo out, but that does not negate the stalwart performance from Narumi Miura that helped her team secure the 3 points. If you are a fan of good defensive midfield play, Miura is one to watch this season as she makes her mark on the league and prepares for the 2023 World Cup. I expect her to have a very solid season with the Courage as she becomes a player to build around.