North Carolina Courage win second-straight NWSL Championship over Chicago

NWSL Championship
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Cary, North Carolina โ€” There’s a dynasty brewing in North Carolina. However, Courage head coach Paul Riley will never admit it. Instead, Riley continues to insist that his side, the North Carolina Courage, are the underdogs, despite another NWSL Championship.

This is the same Courage team that has lifted the NWSL Shield for three-straight seasons. Now, the club hoisted a different trophy for a consecutive year. On Sunday, the Courage topped the visiting Chicago Red Stars at WakeMed Soccer Park to win their second-straight title.

Before the Courage moved down south, they were known as the Western New York Flash. If you count “both” teams, Riley’s squad has won the NWSL three times in the last four seasons. Sunday’s win was dominant than the previous years. The Courage kept a clean sheet and put up four goals past Alyssa Naeher and the Chicago Red Stars.

Debinha struck first. The Brazilian was up for the league-wide MVP vote, but fell to Red Stars striker Sam Kerr. However, Debinha got the last laugh, picking up a loose ball inside the box to give North Carolina an early lead. Debinha’s 4th minute goal is the quickest in NWSL Championship history.

It only got worse for the Red Stars, who were missing Tierna Davidson due to injury and slotted Katie Naughton at centerback next to Julie Ertz.

Jess McDonald scored off a header in the 26th minute, off an assist from Lynn Williams. Then, in first-half stoppage time, Crystal Dunn sunk a dagger into the hearts of the Red Stars. In the second half, the Red Stars shored up their defense and got some good looks on net. However, Sam Mewis struck the final goal in the 61st minute.

Three Takeaways

  1. The dominance is everywhere for NC: North Carolina was not the underdog in this match by any means, but they were the less popular team. With Chicago in the final for the first time, plenty of anti-Courage fans showcased their stripes. However, North Carolina got the last laugh. The team is ridiculously complete in all phases of the field. When tested, Stephanie Labbรฉ stepped up, making two saves against Vanessa DiBernardo and Kerr. The midfield was unstoppable and Lynn Williams ran up and down the pitch.
  2. Chicago earns great knowledge: Fans were wondering for the last four years when Chicago would make it over the semifinal hump. They did it this season, marking their first year in the NWSL Championship. On the other end, they went up against a team that made their fourth-straight final. Rory Dames explained after the match that Chicago will be better due to the experience โ€” and he’s right.
  3. Debinha deserved MVP: After the match, Paul Riley said Debinha’s goal wasn’t the only reason she was nabbed the final’s MVP. “It’s all the little things she’s doing on the pitch,” Riley said, during his postgame remarks. Debinha deserved to be the final of this match, and if Kerr didn’t break her own record she could’ve possibly been the regular-season MVP. The Brazilian has blossomed into her own in North Carolina.

Scenes from Cary, North Carolina

I had the opportunity to travel down to North Carolina to cover this year’s NWSL final. Here’s some videos of interviews, reactions to goals and much more from the final!


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