Crystal Dunn scored a back-breaking goal for the Courage. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
CARY, N.C. — If there is another National Women’s Soccer League team that can match the skill, depth, talent and relentless play of the North Carolina Courage, please stand up.
Well, at the present time, there isn’t any team that can stand close to the Courage, which demonstrated its strength in the game that matters the most. North Carolina rolled to a three-goal halftime lead before securing its second consecutive league title and third in the last four years behind a 4-0 triumph over the Chicago Red Stars Sunday.
Coached by Long Island resident Paul Riley, the Courage had few if any blemishes as it captured the NWSL Shield as the team with the best regular season record and another championship.
Debinha, named the championship game MVP, Jess McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Sam Mewis found the net for the Courage, which managed to slow down Chicago striker Sam Kerr, regardless by many observers as the best women’s player in the world.
But it would have taken much more than just one player to overcome the Courage on a beautiful North Carolina afternoon before a sellout crowd of 10,227 at Salhen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
North Carolina made quick work of the Red Stars, striking twice in the opening 26 minutes.
Brazilian international Debinha, who was overlooked in the NWSL postseason voting, gave the hosts all the scoring they needed by connected from five yards past U.S. international goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
McDonald doubled the margin in the 26th minute when she headed a right-wing feed from Lynn Williams at the far post.
Five minutes into first-half stoppage, Dunn showed great determination and resilience on her goal. The Rockville Centre, N.Y. native slipped on the field as did Naeher and a defender. Dunn got up and slotted the ball home from close range for a 3-0 halftime advantage.
Mewis closed out the scoring in the 61st minute, heading in an Abby Dahlkemper free kick.
Midway through the second half, Dunn took a knock on her ankle and needed to be replaced by defensive midfielder McCall Zerboni, was subbing essentially quality for quality. Dunn played at the Albertson Soccer Club. Riley is director of football with the LI club.
Former U.S. international Heather O’Reilly, playing in the final game of her illustrious career, started at right back and received a standing ovation from the fans when she left the match in the 89th minute.