Heather O’Reilly scored the lone goal of the match for North Carolina. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The North Carolina Courage captured the first Women’s International Champions Cup by defeating five-time UEFA Champions League winner Olympique Lyonnais Feminin, 1-0, at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday night.
Three-time Olympic champion Heather O’Reilly scored the lone goal for the Courage, tallying her first in a North Carolina uniform. A stellar performance by goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and the back line kept the result, giving the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League Shield winners their second trophy since relocating from Rochester, N.Y.
Directed by Bay Shore, N.Y. resident Paul Riley, the Courage were missed five regulars for the weekend tournament. First-team regulars Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn (Rockville Centre, N.Y.), Merritt Mathias, Samantha Mewis and McCall Zerboni were named to the U.S. women’s national team’s 23-player roster for the 2018 Tournament of Nations. In addition, Debinha was called up for Brazil.
Another hot, muggy night dictated play as both teams applied pressure early on. The Courage struck 10 minutes after kickoff. Lynn Williams took advantage of a poor back pass from Lyon midfielder Saki Kumagai and brought it down the left side before crossing it to an oncoming O’Reilly. The former University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill standout struck it towards the goal and underneath goalkeeper Lisa Weiß.
The Courage continued to look dangerous as Williams remained a threat for the Lyon defense, forcing a corner kick in the 23r dminute and another one 10 minutes later. D’Angelo was called into action in the 38th minute to clear the ball when Shanice van de Sanden went 1 v 1 towards goal only to see her chance thwarted by the Canadian international. Lyon continued to look for an equalizer before halftime but to no avail.
In the second half, Olympique started to push harder. In the 57th minute, D’Angelo was called into action again when she saved a cross from midfielder Carolin Simon.
The Courage keeper was forced into a diving save after a blast by former Portland Thorns midfielder Amandine Henry in the 64th minute, and again in the 73rd minute following a shot by Amel Majri.
Olympique continued to lay siege to the Courage goal, but the defense, backline and team, and D’Angelo helped preserve the result.
The playoff-bound Courage will turn its attention to league play as it will host the Portland Thorns at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park Sunday at 6 p.m.