It's the second semifinal of the 2017 NWSL postseason as the North Carolina Courage, the NWSL Shield winners, welcome the Chicago Red Stars to Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The winner will face the Portland Thorns in the NWSL Championship in Orlando. This game will be broadcasted on Lifetime with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Fans can also stream via mylifetime.com with a cable TV provider login, and the Lifetime iOS and Android apps. International viewers can access the game via NWSLSoccer.com and the NWSL iOS and Android apps.
How They Reached The Playoffs
The North Carolina Courage finished the regular season with a 16-7-1 record, first in the NWSL, and clinched a playoff berth on August 30th with a 3-2 win against the Washington Spirit. The Courage became the first team this season to secure a spot in the playoffs and to gain home-field advantage. They're also the first team since the 2014 Seattle Reign to win 16 regular season games.
The Chicago Red Stars clinched a playoff spot for their third consecutive year after their 3-2 victory over the Houston Dash in Week 21, and they finished the season with an 11-7-6 record, fourth in the NWSL. The Red Stars found themselves just needing a win against the Dash to extend their season into the playoffs.
History: Courage versus Red Stars
In their past three meetings during the regular season, it was Chicago who came out victorious. The Red Stars were the only team who won regular season series against the Courage with 3-1, 3-2, and 2-1 victories, respectively.
In their last meeting on September 3rd, in Chicago's final home match of the regular season, the Red Stars were able to come back from a goal down to win 2-1. The Courage led early after a Christen Press giveaway in center midfield to McCall Zerboni led to a through ball from Jess McDonald towards Lynn Williams, who put the shot away low into the far corner. However, the Red Stars regrouped in the second half and put away two goals for the win.
For both teams, there are mental battles to overcome. The Courage are facing a team who has given them difficulty all season. Furthermore, as the Shield winners, history has shown the past four seasons that the top team in the NWSL in the regular season has never won the NWSL Championship.
“The team that wins the Shield never wins the championship, so we know that. We can’t be fancied to win next week. We have to be the underdog,” Courage coach Paul Riley said following his team’s regular season game. “0-3 against a team and the Shield winners. That’s two negatives, you know?”
If the regular season showed us anything when these two clubs met is that it will a field battle until the end. Both teams feature MVP candidates Sam Mewis and Christen Press, Goalkeeper of the Year finalists Katelyn Rowland and Alyssa Naeher, and Abby Dahlkemper and Casey Short who are both Defender of the Year finalists.
Paul Riley quote courtesy of NWSL