North Carolina Courage captures 2018 NWSL Championship title
PORTLAND (Via NC Courage) – Jessica McDonald scored two goals and Debinha added another to lead the North Carolina Courage to a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns FC to claim the 2018 NWSL Championship on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 21,144 fans at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
The 2018 NWSL Championship boasted the largest crowd (21,144) for a U.S. women’s professional soccer championship match, including Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). The previous record was set at the 2001 WUSA Championship (21,078).
The Courage – who also won the 2018 NWSL shield – become the first club in NWSL history to accomplish the double winning the championship and recording the best regular season record. It all comes on the heels of an historic regular season in which the club set new NWSL single-season records for wins (17), points (57, 17-1-6) and goals scored (53).
For her stellar performance, McDonald was voted Most Valuable Player of the 2018 NWSL Championship after becoming the fifth player to record a brace in the history of the NWSL Playoffs, including three in the NWSL Championship.
North Carolina’s Katelyn Rowland becomes the third goalkeeper to record a clean sheet in the NWSL Championship joining Karina LeBlanc (Portland Thorns) in 2013 and Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City) in 2015.
The Thorns league-record streak for scoring in consecutive home games ends at 34 games, including the 2018 semifinal versus Seattle Reign FC. The last time Portland was held scoreless at Providence Park was May 29, 2016.
Following her 90-minute performance this afternoon, Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair has now played more NWSL Playoffs minutes than any other players – 769 minutes played in 8 games (all starts).
With the top two teams in the regular season facing off there plenty of fireworks as the Courage set the tone early as midfielder Crystal Dunn helped to push the attack deep into the Thorns defense. Much of the first 15 minutes of the match was played in and around the Portland penalty box.
In the 13th minute of the match, forward Lynn Williams worked her way around the left side of the defense, pulling two Thorns defenders to her. Her cross was deflected off a Portland defender and hit the crossbar just above Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch‘s hand. The rebound off the post was a fortunate one for Courage forward Debinha as she was able to run in and head the ball to the back of the net.
The Courage kept up the pressure as they forced the Thorns to try and keep the defend their goal for much of the half.
In the 40th minute, the Courage found themselves with a set piece to the right of Portland’s penalty box. The initial shot was cleared out danger by Portland’s defense, but Jaelene Hinkle jumped on the ball and sent it right back in towards goal. As the ball bounced through the backline, McDonald and Franch both rushed to it, with McDonald beating Franch to it by just a split second and giving her side a 2-0 advantage.
Franch was very busy throughout the first half and was forced off her line many times. Late in the half, she came well outside the box and seemed to turn her ankle as she cleared the ball away from the rushing Courage forward. Although she was attended to by the trainers, she was able to stay make it through the entire match.
Portland attempted a comeback in the second half. They started the half with purpose and controlled much of the possession for the first ten minutes. The Courage defense found themselves on their heels through the 55 th minute as the Thorns FC continued to rain crosses into the box.
Through it all, North Carolina was able to weather the storm, only allowing three shots on goal.
McDonald scored her second goal of the match in the 64th minute. The Courage earned a corner kick to the right of goal. Denise O’Sullivan played the short corner to Samantha Mewis who in turn played the ball back to a running Merritt Mathias. Mathias was then able to send a perfect cross into the six-yard box where McDonald could run in and head it home, securing her brace and giving North Carolina the 3-0 lead.
From there, the record-setting defense of North Carolina took control. They held the NWSL’s regular season MVP Lindsey Horanand captain Sinclair to only one shot on goal each.
The Courage defense, which only gave up 17 goals all season, held the high-powered Thorns offense the rest of the way and secured the victory for their team.
NWSL Championship Match Report
Match: North Carolina Courage vs Portland Thorns FC
Date: Sept. 22, 2018
Venue: Providence Park
Kickoff: 1:55 p.m. PT
Weather: 69 degrees, Partly Cloudy
|North Carolina Courage||
|Portland Thorns FC||
NC – Debinha 13′
NC – Jessica McDonald (Jaelene Hinkle) 40′
NC – Jessica McDonald (Merritt Mathias) 64′
North Carolina Courage: Katelyn Rowland, Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkemper, Merritt Mathias, Debinha (Kristen Hamilton 78′), Denise O’Sullivan, Samantha Mewis, Crystal Dunn (Heather O’Reilly 87′), Jessica McDonald (Darian Jenkins 92+)
Substitutes Not Used: Sabrina D’Angelo, Kaleigh Kurtz, Cari Roccaro, Meredith Speck
Portland Thorns FC: Adrianna Franch, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Emily Sonnett, Ellie Carpenter, Lindsey Horan, Celeste Boureille, Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair, Ana Crnogorcevic (Andressinha 68′), Caitlin Foord
Substitutes Not Used: Elizabeth Ball, Brit Eckerstrom, Tyler Lussi, Ifeoma Onumonu, Midge Purce, Mallory Weber
Stats Summary: NC/POR
Shots: 23 / 14
Shots on Goal: 5 / 3
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 6
Fouls: 11 / 13
Offsides: 2 / 2
NC – Denise O’Sullivan (Yellow) 42′
NC – Jessica McDonald (Yellow) 65′
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
Assistant Referees: Brooke Mayo, Adrienne McDonald
Fourth Official: Karen Abt
Fifth Official: Alan Black
Most Valuable Player:
North Carolina Courage forward Jessica McDonald