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NWSL final: Courage run rampant on Red Stars, claim second title

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The North Carolina Courage put four unanswered goals past the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, winning theย National Womenโ€™s Soccer League championship for a second consecutive year by a scoreline of 4-0.

It is the second title in the club’s history, tying a record held by the Portland Thorns and the defunct FC Kansas City.

Like the dominant team they are (and have been), the Courage – fresh off of winning their third straight NWSL Shield – wasted no time in imposing themselves on Chicago.

Just four minutes in, Debinha’s close-range finish – the fastest-ever goal in a NWSL championship game – foreshadowed what was to come at a sold-out Sahlenโ€™s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

What exactly was it that came in the 86 minutes that followed?

A tormenting, fluid Courage attack that overpowered a feeble Red Stars, who were missing injured Tierna Davidson and failed to plug-in league MVP Sam Kerr into the game.

Before the first half came to an end, forward Jessica McDonald double the lead for the hosts’, heading the ball with into the back of net. In stoppage time, Crystal Dunn’s goal put the game out of the Red Stars’ reach.

โ€œIt was a hotter today than we expected and we needed to share the load and, you know, [we] had four different goal scorers,โ€ Dunn said. โ€œI always said this team is so hard to beat because who are you going to stop on our team?โ€

โ€œWe got up on them early and I think that really helped us in the end,” she added.ย โ€œIt is a final and we are playing against a top team this year and we obviously did not think the score would be four-zero,โ€ Dunn added. โ€œSo we are really proud of our effort.โ€

Debinha, the game’s first goalscorer, was named the final MVP, which was U.S. national team legend’s Heather O’Reilly last professional game.

With Sunday’s title in the books, the Courage became the first NWSL team to win the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship in back-to-back seasons.

In other words, Paul Riley and Co. have put together a dynasty. It was only fitting that they also became the first team in NWSL history to hoist the cup in front of the home fans in Cary.

USWNT legend O’Reilly scores stunner on night to honor her career

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USWNT hero and North Carolina Courage playmaker Heather O’Reilly gave her special day its just desserts.

The 34-year-old New Jersey native scored a sweet goal late in North Carolina’s 6-1 demolition of Orlando Pride on Saturday night, which just so happened to be the evening chosen to celebrate her 17-year career.

[ MORE: Fan banned from all NWSL games ]

O’Reilly dribbled down the left before cutting to the middle and slashing a shot across the goal and inside the far post.

She has 231 USWNT caps with 47 goals, a Women’s World Cup crown, three Olympic gold medals, three top-flight domestic titles, two Women’s College Cups, and an FA Cup with Arsenal Ladies.

The Courage have four matches left in the regular season and look set to again be the No. 1 seed, so O’Reilly may yet have more memorable moments left in her playing career.

Match between Courage and Thorns draws record crowd

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A National Women’s Soccer League record 25,218 fans watched the Portland Thorns beat the North Carolina Courage 2-1 at Providence Park on Sunday.

The game featured numerous stars from the U.S. national team that won the Women’s World Cup this summer in France. Among them was Crystal Dunn, who scored in the fourth minute to put the Courage on top early. The Thorns evened it on a North Carolina own goal in the 56th minute and went ahead on another in the 82nd.

The game was a rematch of last season’s NWSL championship, which the Courage won 3-0

The NWSL is in its seventh season. The previous league record crowd was 23,403, set at a match between the Orlando Pride and Houston Dash in 2016.

The attendance record for a women’s club league match was 34,148, set at the inaugural game of the now-defunct WUSA between the Bay Area CyberRays and Washington Freedom at RFK Stadium.

NWSL: NC Courage complete regular-season, playoff double

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Jess McDonald scored two goals and the North Carolina Courage won the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns on Saturday.

The victory was a bit of revenge for the Courage, who lost 1-0 to the Thorns in last year’s title match.

The Courage (17-1-6) won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for best record and never dropped a game on the road. The team also set NWSL records this season for the most wins, points and goals.

The match was played before a sellout crowd of 21,144 at Portland’s Providence Park. That was a record for the final of a women’s pro league championship in the United States.

Brazilian Debinha scored on a header in the 13th minute, and McDonald followed with her own in the 40th. Shortly thereafter, Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch appeared to teak her ankle, but she returned for the second half.

Portland came out energized in the second half, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland denied a Tobin Heath blast in the 55th minute.

McDonald struck again with a header in the 64th minute that Franch got a hand on but couldn’t stop.

McDonald, a 30-year-old vet who has played for five teams in six years, led the league with eight assists in the regular season. She has three goals in the postseason.

“It feels absolutely amazing. This is what we worked so hard for,” McDonald said. “Every single minute, every single day that we put work into – it counted today,” McDonald said.

NC Courage advance to NWSL final, will face Portland

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CARY, N.C. (AP) Denise O’Sullivan scored in the 90th minute to send the North Carolina Courage to the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 1-0 semifinal victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.

The Courage will face the Portland Thorns next Saturday in Orlando, Florida. The Thorns beat the Orlando Pride 4-1 on Saturday.

The Courage won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for the best regular season record at 16-7-1. The team was previously the Western New York Flash. The franchise won last season’s NWSL championship before being sold and moving to North Carolina in the offseason.

The Thorns (14-5-5) finished second in the 10-team league. Last season, Portland went 12-3-5 and finished with the league’s best record but fell 4-3 in the semifinals to the Flash.

The Courage won its first four games this season and stayed atop the table for almost the rest of the way, led by Lynn Williams – last season’s league MVP – with nine goals and five assists.

No team has ever won the Supporters’ Shield and the championship in the same season.

Chicago, paced by forward Christen Press with 11 goals, stumbled in August with three losses at home but went undefeated for its final four games. Teammate Julie Ertz had four goals and three assists playing a defensive midfield position.

The Red Stars had won all three regular-season meetings with the Courage.

The NWSL is wrapping up its historic fifth season. No other professional women’s soccer league in the United States has lasted as long.