North Carolina Courage Wins 2017 NWSL Shield
The North Carolina Courage claimed the 2017 NWSL Shield on Wednesday night with a 4-0 victory over the Houston Dash at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas.
Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams both scored in the first half before Debinha and Ashley Hatch added goals of their own in the second half to propel North Carolina to their biggest win of the season. Williams, Debinha, Hatch and Abby Dahlkemper all registered an assist as well, while goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo made four saves in her first appearance since May 27.
The Courage earned the league’s best regular-season record in their first season since relocating to North Carolina. Coach Paul Riley and his players have spent 144 of the previous 159 days at the top of the table as they steadily marched toward the regular-season crown.
The win over Houston on Wednesday night was the seventh in the last nine matches and 16th of the season for Carolina – which ties the NWSL single-season record set by Seattle Reign FC in 2014. They will have the opportunity to make to the record all their own when they host the Orlando Pride on Saturday night as Courage fans get the chance to celebrate the first silverware of the season.
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North Carolina have posted a 7-4-1 record on the road and a 9-2-0 mark at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, N.C. The seven away wins are three more than any other team has managed this year, while their nine home victories are tied with Portland Thorns FC this year for the most in a single season in league history.
The Courage have accomplished those feats with one of best defenses the NWSL has ever seen as goalkeepers Katelyn Rowland and Sabrina D’Angelo have combined for 12 shutouts behind backline of Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Taylor Smith and Jaelene Hinkle.
The 12 shutouts broke the single-season record of 11 clean sheets established by FC Kansas City in 2013 and matched by Portland this season. The sustained defensive effort helped the side to a remarkable seven victories by a score a 1-0 – the most by that score line in a single season in league history. In addition, North Carolina boasts a 0.83 goals against average that is currently tied with the 2014 Reign and the Thorns this year for the best mark all-time.
Meanwhile on the offensive side of the ball, the Courage have been ruthlessly effective with 36 goals in 23 games. Carolina has scored two or more goals in a match 10 times this season and posted a 15-1-1 record in games that they have scored first.
Lynn Williams (7 goals, 5 assists), Samantha Mewis (6 goals, 3 assists), Ashley Hatch (7 goals, assist), Jessica McDonald (4 goals, 2 assists), McCall Zerboni (3 goals, assist), Debinha (4 goals, 2 assists) and Kristen Hamilton (3 goals, assist) have all made telling contributions to the Courage attack, which ranks fourth in the league this year.
North Carolina will now attempt to become the first NWSL Shield winners to also claim the NWSL Championship. The Courage will host an NWSL semifinal against either the Chicago Red Stars or Orlando Pride on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET, while the other semifinal will be hosted by Portland on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. at 3:30 p.m. ET. The 2017 NWSL Championship Game will be held on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. All three playoff games will be broadcast live on Lifetime.
Tickets are on sale now for the 2017 NWSL Championship, starting as low as $20. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase seats throughout the 25,500 capacity venue, including in the North end of Orlando City Stadium – North America’s first safe-standing supporter’s section. Tickets are available online at www.NWSLchampionship.com and by phone at 1-855-ORL-CITY.
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