ORLANDO (Oct. 14, 2017)- The North Carolina Courage suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss against the Portland Thorns in the NWSL Championship Game at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Lindsey Horan scored the lone goal of the game for Portland despite a strong showing by the NWSL Shield winners. Overall, the NC Courage put forth a valiant effort outshooting the Thorns 16-4, but were unable to convert their numerous chances.
“I’m obviously disappointed,” said NC Courage head coach Paul Riley. “I thought we played a brilliant game overall. Obviously two early substitutions changed the formation a little bit, but I give a lot of credit to our players who hung in there, outplayed them. I thought we were the better team overall.”
An aggressive Portland forced Riley to make a substitution early on when Taylor Smith was body checked by Tobin Heath and had to leave the game in the opening minutes of the match. A second substitution came in the 38th minute when Kristen Hamilton was also forced to leave the game following a foul from Heath.
It was the NWSL Shield winners, however, who had the clearer chances in the half with Sam Mewis sending a looping shot over Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch only to see the ball bounce of the crossbar in the 14th minute.
As the chippy affair continued, McCall Zerboni sent a cross into the box looking for Lynn Williams who sent the ball barely to the left side of the goal in the 32nd.
Three minutes later Denise O’Sullivan looked to replicate her game winner from the semifinal match as she took a shot from the top of the box, but Franch denied the Irish International her tally.
After a scoreless first half, the Thorns found the back of the net just five minutes into the second stanza, a free kick from distance found Emily Sonnett at the top of the box, the defender headed the ball far post to Horan who slotted it past NC Courage Kate Rowland for the 1-0 lead.
The Courage continued to press and almost found the equalizer in the 83rd minute as Jessica McDonald found herself in the box only to see her attempt blocked by a Thorns defender.
The last few minutes were played in front of Franch’s goal, but several attempts by Williams, Mewis and and McDonald were all thwarted by the Thorns.
In the end, the NC Courage left Orlando City Stadium with their heads high having broken several records this season and leading the league all year.
NC Courage: Katelyn Rowland; Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg (C), Abby Dahlkemper, Taylor Smith (Makenzy Doniak,12’); Denise O’Sullivan (Stephanie Ochs, 86’), Sam Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Kristen Hamilton (Jessica McDonald, 39’); Lynn Williams, Ashley Hatch
Subs not used: Sabrina D’Angelo, Meredith Speck, Samantha Witteman, Nora Holstad
Portland Thorns: Adrianna Franch; Emily Sonnett, Amandine Henry (Allie Long, 90’+), Meghan Klingenberg, Katherine Reynolds; Emily Menges, Ashleigh Sykes (Dagny Brynjarsdottir, 54’; Hayley Raso (Nadia Nadim, 69’), Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan; Christine Sinclair ©
Subs not used: Britt Eckerstrom, Tyler Lussi, Celeste Bourelle, Mallory Weber
POR: Lindsey Horan (Emily Sonnett, 50’)
POR: Tobin Heath 41’, Hayley Raso 45’+, Dagny Brynjarsdottir 72’