North Carolina Courage Wins 2018 NWSL Championship
The North Carolina Courage edged the Portland Thorns in a rematch of the 2017 NWSL Championship on Saturday with 21,144 supporters in attendance at Providence Park in Oregon. North Carolina lifted its third silverware of the year led by Jessica McDonald who recorded a brace during the afternoon matchup.
NWS Soccer News: The North Carolina Courage hoisted the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Championship on Saturday, cruising to a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns. The home crowd made its presence felt as the Thorns hosted the NWSL Championship at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.
The 2018 season was a historic year for North Carolina, setting multiple records and lifting three pieces of silverware along the way. The Courage became the first club in league history to hoist the NWSL Shield and Championship during the same season. North Carolina also lifted the 2018 Women’s International Champions Cup after defeating Olympique Lyon Féminin of France, 1-0, in the final. The Courage lost just one match during the 2018 regular season while recording 17 wins and six draws.
The opening goal of the match came in the 13th minute when a long ball down the field found Lynn Williams following a collapse by the Portland defense. Williams entered the penalty area and struck a left-footed shot that was deflected by defender Emily Menges. The shot rattled the crossbar and was redirected into the path of Debinha who crashed the box and finished the rebound with an easy header inside the six-yard box.
North Carolina extended its lead in the 40th minute after a free kick from near midfield was cleared and resent back into the penalty area. An unmarked Jessica McDonald pounced on the bouncing ball and headed home the second tally for the visitors.
At the halftime break, North Carolina recorded 15 shots with three on target, while the Thorns tallied five shots with zero on goal. Portland entered the second half of play pressing forward as the hosts attempted to put their mark on the match.
In the 55th minute, Portland midfielder Tobin Heath nearly cut the lead with a low, left-footed strike from the edge of the penalty area. The shot was saved by North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland to maintain the advantage for the Courage.
Despite efforts by Portland, North Carolina continued to pounce on transitional opportunities with multiple crosses nearly finding the back of the net. In the 63rd minute, McDonald gave the Courage a comfortable 3-0 lead as she tallied her second header off a corner kick.
Another opportunity for the Thorns came in the 72nd minute when Christine Sinclair received a pass near the edge of the 18-yard box and sent a curling shot to the top-right corner of the goal. Rowland was able to push the ball over the crossbar in order to maintain the clean sheet.
North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley praised Rowland’s performance, citing her confidence coming out of the net to clear multiple crosses sent in by Portland. Overall, Riley was pleased with the performance by his club and the effort given on both ends of the pitch.
“It was a great season. Sometimes you get to a final and it doesn’t produce what you want,” said Riley. “Today they [his team] produced everything you could ask for in a performance.”
McDonald was named MVP of the match after leading the Courage with a brace. The veteran tallied a total of 10 goals and eight assists during the 2018 campaign. During the post-game press conference, McDonald praised the North Carolina Courage for providing stability to her career as she was crowned NWSL Champion for the second time – the first with the Western New York Flash in 2016.
“As a veteran, I’ve bounced around a lot in this league,” said McDonald. “I finally found a home, a place where I am comfortable. That kind of comfort gives me motivation.”
Congratulations to the North Carolina Courage on a successful 2018 season!
Photo Credi: ISI Photos