CARY, NORTH CAROLINA (March 24, 2018) — To kick off the 2018 NWSL season, the reigning NWSL champion Portland Thorns took a trip to Cary, North Carolina, to face the team they lifted the trophy over back in October.
However, this time, North Carolina got the last laugh.
North Carolina Courage Get Revenge Over Portland Thorns With 1-0 Victory thanks to Débora Cristiane de Oliveira
Débora Cristiane de Oliveira — otherwise known as “Debinha” — scored the first NWSL goal of 2018, in the 70th minute right outside the box. The goal was assisted by Denise O’Sullivan.
Portland went into attack mode after taking chances to even out the score. In the end, Portland, led by head coach Mark Parsons, only took three shots, with one being a real threat to Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo.
North Carolina, on the other hand, took 20 shots, forcing Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch to make three saves.
The Courage started to kill time with a late substitution in the 90th minute where Debinha exited the pitch in favor of Meredith Speck. However, Portland didn’t slow down as Celeste Boureille earned a dire free kick.
Boureille’s free kick proved to be no threat for D’Angelo.
The match completely favored the North Carolina Courage. The Courage took 12 corner kicks compared to only one corner for Portland.
- Merritt Mathias is a good Taylor Smith replacement: The Courage are pretty solid on defense, with Abby Dahlkemper and Abbey Erceg spearheading the backline. Jaelene Hinkle holds down the left side, but the right side was left vacant when the team traded away Taylor Smith (for Crystal Dunn). However, Merritt Mathias, who joined from the Seattle Reign, didn’t let Portland’s tough strikers get past her.
- Sabrina D’Angelo over Katelyn Rowland is baffling: Although she kept a clean sheet, it was a head-scratching decision to why Courage Head Coach Paul Riley chose Sabrina D’Angelo over Katelyn Rowland. The last time Rowland started an NWSL match was the championship game. What did she do in the preseason to merit her spot on the bench?
- Don’t sleep on North Carolina’s midfield: Denise O’Sullivan provided the key assist to Debinha’s goal today and McCall Zerboni faced young, but talented, midfielder Midge Purce for Portland. The two midfielders didn’t miss a beat with each other — and their new, fellow midfielder Dunn. The three fit into Riley’s starting lineup well and it didn’t take long for them to gel together.