Cary, N.C. (October 27, 2019)- In front of 10,227 fans, the largest home crowd in North Carolina Football Club history, the North Carolina Courage defeated the Chicago Red Stars 4-0 to win the 2019 NWSL Championship for their second straight league title. It was truly a team effort with Debinha, Jessica McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Samantha Mewis each scoring as the Courage became the first team to win an NWSL Championship on their home turf.
Debinha, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, started the afternoon by scoring the fastest goal in NWSL Championship history. The star Brazilian midfielder received a cross from McDonald and took two shots that were blocked before finishing her third attempt into the back of the net in the fourth minute, putting the Courage ahead 1-0.
In normal NC Courage fashion, head coach Paul Riley’s team continued the pressure immediately after scoring. Williams sent in a header off a corner kick that forced a diving save from Chicago Red Stars Alyssa Naeher in the 11th minute.
The pressure paid off in the 26th minute when Williams played in an arching cross toward McDonald. The 6’0” forward went up high, heading the ball into the net at the perfect angle to slip it past Naeher, making it 2-0.
Right before the half, Dunn netted a goal despite being surrounded by numerous Chicago defenders, her ninth of the season and a massive blow to Chicago head coach Rory Dames’ group.
Solid between the posts, Courage goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé had two saves in the first half to keep Chicago and star forward Sam Kerr scoreless going into halftime with the Courage leading 3-0.
The next Courage goal came in the 61st minute when center back Abby Dahlkemper took advantage of time and space and sent in a perfectly placed ball for Mewis. Having tracked down the service, Mewis got her header off just as Naeher closed down and saw her shot roll into an open net, as Dahlkemper recorded her first assist of the year.
With a four-goal lead in tow, the Courage kept up the pressure and never let Chicago find the back of the net. Playing in the final match of her storied professional career, Courage right back Heather O’Reilly exited in the 89th to full applause.
Just a few minutes later, the referee blew the whistle for the final time, as Riley’s team became just the second team in league history to win back-to-back titles.
Fact to Know
The Courage’s four-goal win was the largest margin of victory in NWSL Championship history.
– The North Carolina Courage became the first team in NWSL history to win a league title on their home field.
– With Sunday’s win, head coach Paul Riley’s team became just the second team in NWSL history to repeat as NWSL champions.
– The Courage finished the season unbeaten at home (10W-0L-4D).
– The Courage became the first team to score three goals in one half of an NWSL Championship match.
– Entering Sunday’s match, Chicago had given up just two goals in its six previous games. Sunday marked just the second time the Red Stars gave up four goals in a match this season.
– The Courage improved to 3W-0L-0D in postseason matches against Chicago dating back to 2017.
– The Courage scored four-plus goals for the seventh time this season.
– A record-setting 10,227 fans attended Sunday’s match, the most in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park history.
– McCall Zerboni, Kristen Hamilton and Cari Roccaro appeared as substitutes for the Courage.
NCC (4-2-2-2): Stephanie Labbe; Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkemper, Heather O’Reilly (Cari Roccaro, 89’); Denise O’Sullivan, Samantha Mewis; Debinha, Crystal Dunn (McCall Zerboni, 62’); Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald (Kristen Hamilton, 75’)
Subs not used: Katelyn Rowland, Kaleigh Kurtz, Julia Spetsmark, Meredith Speck
CHI (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher, Casey Short, Julie Ertz (C), Katie Naughton, Sarah Gorden; Danielle Colaprico (Brooke Elby, 84’), Morgan Brian, Vanessa DiBernardo (Nikki Stanton, 75’); Savannah McCaskill (Katie Johnson, 46’), Yuki Nagasato, Sam Kerr
Subs not used: Maria Sanchez, Emily Boyd, Kayla Sharples, Zoey Goralski
NCC: Debinha (unassisted, 4’), Jessica McDonald (Lynn Williams, 26’), Dunn (unassisted, 45+5’), Samantha Mewis (Abby Dahlkemper, 61')
CHI: Vanessa DiBernardo, 47’, Julie Ertz 67’