NWSL: Courage wreck havoc in Portland, notching first place in the league

Courage beat Thorns
BRIDGEVIEW, ILLINOIS — JULY 21: Lynn Williams #9 of North Carolina Courage celebrates with Debinha #10 of North Carolina Courage after scoring a goal in the first half against the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium on July 21, 2019 in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images).

Portland, Oregon — The Portland Thorns FC have watched the North Carolina Courage take the top spot in the NWSL for the last two years. However, this year, the Thorns took that top spot for a while.

But, the slot in first place didn’t last entirely long. There’s still a tight competition for the Supporters Shield in the NWSL. However, if the season ended today, the shield would be lifted up the Courage. Wednesday featured a battle between Portland and North Carolina. It’s turned into one of the best rivalries in the NWSL. For the last two seasons, they have met in the NWSL Championship Game, splitting the win.

North Carolina is the reigning NWSL Champions, winning the title at Providence Park.

When the Courage came in on Wednesday night, the fans remembered seeing the players hoist the league trophy almost a year ago. Now, they saw the members of the Courage celebrating six goals on the home team’s turf.

North Carolina packed a punch against the Thorns. Debinha had a stellar game, which included one goal and three assists. Meanwhile, it was Lynn Williams who scored a hat trick against Adrianna Franch and the Thorns defense. Crystal Dunn and Kristen Hamilton also scored a goal each.

After the match, Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said North Carolina had an outstanding performance in Portland.

“Probably the best that they might’ve played against a top team,” Parsons said. “Maybe one of the strongest performances we’ve seen in the league for a long time against a top team. On the other side of our form and our performance, we were probably at our worst.”

Reynolds: “A lot of things were wrong”

Katherine Reynolds didn’t mince any words during post-game media conversation. She simply said that the Thorns weren’t good enough. Also, Reynolds said that she didn’t have the time to think about everything that went wrong.

“I think that we’re just going to have to really take some time and look back at this game and find a way to solve all those problems,” Reynolds said.

Meanwhile, Hayley Raso said the team was embarrassed by their performance. On paper, that’s the largest shut-out victory in NWSL history for the Courage. It’s also the largest margin of victory, according to The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta.

“I think we need to have a really tough week of training and move on and look toward the next game,” Raso said, via Oregon Live. “… Physically, we weren’t there. I think mentally, once we went down a couple of goals, it’s hard to bounce back from that.”

Casey Short nets game-winner for Chicago

These matches are ever-important.

With a tight race in the NWSL, every point counts. The Chicago Red Stars went on the road to face last-place Orlando. The Pride are out of the playoffs, with no chance of making it. Meanwhile, the Red Stars are vying for another consecutive year in the post-season. The Red Stars wanted to avoid a loss to Orlando, like they had suffered earlier in the summer.

All eyes turned to Sam Kerr to make some magic.

She’s a goal-scoring extraordinaire, currently leading the league with 15 goals. She’s two goals shy of tying her own single-season scoring record of 17 goals. She still has three more matches to do so — or break the record.

Kerr couldn’t find the back of the net in Orlando. She had three shots on goal, but Ashlyn Harris made three of her six saves against the Australian. However, the one player that Harris couldn’t deny, while the match was seconds away from ending, was Casey Short.

The defender — who was shockingly left off the FIFA Women’s World Cup roster for the United States — is having one of her best seasons in the league. Short netted the game-winning goal with her head, in the 90’+5′ minute. Just a mere few seconds later, the final whistle blew.

Chicago was also a man down, as Katie Johnson received a second yellow card in the 64th minute. Johnson’s second yellow card came after she fouled Kristen Edmonds. The Pride could not find a goal, even when up a player.

Marc Skinner, the Pride’s first-year head coach, said that despite the loss, he thought his side had an excellent match against Chicago.

“It will be probably the lowest Orlando Pride has been and only from there can you rise up,” Skinner said. “Our mental resilience at the back considering we’ve given away three sloppy goals against Seattle [Reign FC]. We had just— mistakes, rookie mistakes from a counterattack which they know how to defend; they just make decisions that are incorrect because they’re young and inexperienced.”

NWSL Standings: Courage on Top

 

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