CARY, N.C. (Via NC Courage) – The NC Courage clinched its spot in the 2017 NWSL Championship match with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars in front of a record crowd of 10,017 on Sunday at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
After playing most of the match in Chicago’s half, the NC Courage sealed the historic victory with a thrilling goal from Denise O’Sullivan off an assist from Jess McDonald in the 90th minute.
The NC Courage will play the Portland Thorns in the NWSL Championship match on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
“The second half was a really good performance for us,” said head coach Paul Riley. “In the first half, we looked a little bit nervous. We were coughing the ball up and giving balls away, and it wasn’t really like us. McCall [Zerboni] and Sam [Mewis] got themselves together at halftime and I think they changed the game around.”
“We’ve lost to them three times this year so it was nice to win one against them. Chicago is a very good side. I’m just proud of the troops.”
From the first minute, the NC Courage put the visitors under pressure and largely out-possessed and outshot Chicago. North Carolina posted a 19-6 advantage in total shots and a 53.4-46.6 percent advantage in possession at halftime.
During the opening 45 minutes, both teams struggled to find the target, as each goalkeeper was only forced to make one save each. The NC Courage increased its pressure in the closing stages of the half, which nearly led to a first-half goal.
In stoppage time of the first half, Abby Erceg headed a shot past Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher, but defender Katie Naughton had a goal-line clearance to relieve the pressure and escape the half with the scored knotted at 0-0.
Despite outplaying Chicago for the large majority of the match, North Carolina still searched for a go-ahead goal late in the match. The game-winning moment finally came in the 90th minute, as O’Sullivan found the back of the net after a deflection off Julie Ertz left Naeher wrong-footed. Sam Mewis started the play after sending a corner kick into the box. McDonald got a head on the cross and played the ball back towards a wide open O’Sullivan who converted the chance from the top of the box.
The NC Courage rode out the final minutes of the match to clinch its appearance in the championship match.
Coming Up Next:
The North Carolina Courage has advanced to the 2017 NWSL Championship at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. and will face the Portland Thorns. The final will be broadcast live on Lifetime.
- North Carolina has advanced to the NWSL Championship match against Portland, which will be played at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
- The NC Courage hosted a record-breaking crowd of 10,017 fans, its largest crowd of the season.
- Denise O’Sullivan scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute off an assist from Jess McDonald.
- The victory was the NC Courage’s first win over Chicago in four attempts this season.
- The match was the first professional women’s soccer playoff match in North Carolina since the Carolina Courage defeated the Atlanta Beat 3-2 on Aug. 17, 2002 during a WUSA semi-final.
- The match featured 9 United States Women’s National Team members, including Sam Mewis, Taylor Smith, Abby Dahlkemper, Lynn Williams, Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Christen Press, Casey Short and Sofia Huerta. In addition to a large representation from the USWNT, Denise O’Sullivan (Ireland), Debinha (Brazil), Sabrina D’Angelo (Canada) and Yuki Nagasato (Japan) were all included on the rosters.
NC Courage: Katelyn Rowland; Abby Erceg (C), Taylor Smith, Abby Dahlkemper, Jae Hinkle; Sam Lewis, McCall Zerboni, Denise P’Sullivan; Lynn Williams, Debhina (Kristen Hamilton 10’), Ashley Hatch (Jess McDonald 83’)
Subs not used: Makenzy Doniak, Meredith Speck, Samantha Witteman, Nora Holstad Berge, Sabrina D’Angelo
Chicago Red Stars: Alyssa Naeher; Casey Short, Sam Johnson (Steph McCaffrey 90’), Katie Naughton, Erin Gilliand; Julie Ertz, Danny Colaprico (Alyssa Mautz 90’), Sofia Huerta, Vanessa Dibernardo; Jen Hoy (Yuki Nagasato 57’), Christen Press (C)
Subs not used: Sarah Gorden, Michele Dalton, Summer Green, Taylor Comeau
NCC: Denise O’Sullivan (Jessica McDonald, 90’)
CRS: Dannielle Colaprico 36’