NC Courage All Set for Women’s International Champions Cup Final
The North Carolina Courage will attempt to become the champions of the inaugural Women’s International Champions Cup Tournament Sunday night when squaring off against French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The Courage, the lone U.S. representative in the four-team competition, made history on Thursday by defeating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the ICC’s first match involving women’s teams.
With nothing separating the two teams, forward Darian Jenkins scored her first professional goal, a match-winner that came in the 84th minute. Jenkins, a second-year player out of UCLA, came on as a substitute just 10 minutes before scoring the decisive goal, which was set up by forward Lynn Williams’ cross from the right flank.
The Courage took an early lead through forward Jessica McDonald, who opened the scoring in the 19th minute after receiving a precise pass from center back Kaleigh Kurtz.
PSG equalized just before the half on a Courage own goal, but NC kept its cool and responded with a strong second-half performance that was highlighted by Jenkins’ game-winner.
In the second match of Thursday’s doubleheader, Lyon impressively defeated Manchester City 3-0 to set up Sunday’s championship match.
Eugénie Le Sommer scored in the fourth and 14th minutes to give Lyon a commanding lead early on, and the dominant French club added one more goal just before the halftime break through Ada Hegerberg in the 40th minute.
Europe’s most dominant team, Lyon has won its domestic league, Division 1 Féminine, twelve consecutive times, and in May became the first club to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League three years in a row.
The Courage’s appearance in Sunday’s championship match is made even more impressive by the fact that six of the team’s usual starters are away with their respective national teams at the Tournament of Nations.
Defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Merritt Mathias, midfielders Samantha Mewis and McCall Zerboni and forward Crystal Dunn are with the U.S. National Team, and midfielder Debinha is playing in the tournament with Brazil.
Players to Watch:
North Carolina Courage – #9 Lynn Williams
Williams, whose eight NWSL goals trail only Sam Kerr and Lindsey Horan (both players have nine), nearly scored Wednesday night against PSG. The speedy striker forced goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek to make two diving saves. Even though she couldn’t find the back of the net, Williams still played a critical role in the Courage’s attack by assisting on Jenkins’ 84th-minute goal.
Another lively showing from Williams would go a long way in helping the Courage bring home the title on Sunday.
Lyon – #6 Amandine Henry
The majority of Lyon’s players haven’t played at the club level in the U.S., but there is an exception: Amandine Henry. The defensive midfielder is a familiar face to the Courage, having played for Portland Thorns FC from 2016-17. During her time in the NWSL, Henry appeared in 30 matches and scored three goals.
Maneuvering past Henry in the midfield will definitely be a challenge for Courage coach Paul Riley’s team as it tries to break down the Lyon defense.
Coming Up Next:
The Courage get back to NWSL play when they host Portland Thorns FC in a rematch of last year’s NWSL championship game at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday, August 5 at 5 p.m. ET.
The meeting is the third between the two teams this season, and the Courage will be going for the season sweep, having defeated Portland 1-0 in Cary in March and 4-1 in Portland in May.