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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 the National Women’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 Sahlen’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.

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

“We got up on them early and I think that really helped us in the end,” she added. “It 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,” Dunn added. “So we are really proud of our effort.”

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.

US Soccer fires USWNT coach Tom Sermanni after win over China

Tom Sermanni
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Tom Sermanni was fired by US Soccer after just over a year on the job in a surprising move announced Sunday night.

Sermanni’s 15 months as head coach of the United States women’s national team will be remembered as a tumultuous time. Sure, there were plenty of whispers of discord, but there had to be an adjustment period. The connected folks I’ve reached out to were surprised by the news, if not “shocked.”

The firing comes mere hours after Sermanni’s women beat China 2-0 in the first of two international friendlies against the Asian side, completing his tenure with a record of 18W-4D-2L.

The statements from US Soccer president Sunil Gulati and Sermanni:

“We want to thank Tom for his service over the past year and half, but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time. We will begin looking for a new coach immediately to guide our Women’s National Team toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.” — Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer president

“I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out, but I’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for the opportunity to have coached this team and also the staff and players for all their hard work.” — Sermanni

Bears a scent of the players running the ship, that’s for sure.

The Washington Post’s Steve Goff says the US has named Jill Ellis the interim coach for Thursday’s match in San Diego. Ellis was the interim boss when Pia Sundhage stepped down, and boasts a 5W-2D-0L record that includes three wins over China.

Under Sermanni, the States saw its 43-match unbeaten run end en route to a very disappointing seventh-place finish at the Algarve Cup. They lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2001 before saving a little face with a win over North Korea.

How changed is the list of potential candidates discussed the last time the job was open? Paul Riley, Randy Waldrum and Tony DiCicco will see their names in the news along Aaran Lines and Cindy Parlow Cone.

And how about Ellis? She’s been the USSF Development Director since 2010 and boasts a college head coaching record of 248W-14D-63L at UCLA and Illinois before coaching the US U-20 and U-21.

Regardless, surprise is reverberating around US Soccer: