North Carolina Courage Defeat Sky Blue FC 3-2
Debinha scored for the Courage in the 28th minute. Photo:

The North Carolina Courage celebrated their third consecutive NWSL Shield in front of over nine thousand fans as they dominated Sky Blue FC in a 3-2 victory.

McDonald and Debinha on target

The Junkyard Dogs had their first scoring opportunity eight minutes into the match. A strong passing and movement sequence ended with striker and former NWSL Most Valuable Player Lynn Williams heading the ball wide of the goal. A minute later, Sky Blue FC was on the attack. USWNT veteran Carli Lloyd won possession of the ball from North Carolina’s defense and got into a one-versus-one position. However, the Courage’s usual backup goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland was in the right position to save her shot.

2019 World Cup champion Jessica McDonald scored the first of her two goals this match in the 16th minute. Irish midfielder Denise O’Sullivan chipped the ball over the Sky Blue defense for her to run onto. She then cut the ball back and had her first attempt blocked by Cameroonian defender Estelle Johnson. However, she remained persistent and buried a rebound into the goal.

Lloyd found a temporary answer for her hometown team in the 26th minute. Taking the assist from Costa Rican midfielder Raquel Rodriguez, she punished the Courage for their lax defense by hammering an angled shot into the net.

Just two minutes later, Brazilian midfielder Debinha put North Carolina ahead once again. Defensive midfielder Cari Roccaro collected a loose ball off a corner kick by right back Heather O’Reilly. She passed it to Debinha who chipped it from the edge of the box over Sky Blue’s defense and into the net of Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.

On the attack again

In the 81st minute, McDonald helped the Courage set yet another NWSL record. She scored their fifty-fourth goal this season, breaking the league record they set last season for the most goals scored by a club in one season. Williams cut a cross to Debinha near the top of the box. Debinha sent the ball rolling toward McDonald, at the top of the six-yard box in an onside position, to finish into the goal.

Five minutes later, Sky Blue FC defender Dominque Richardson recorded her first career goal. Lloyd started a counterattack with five Courage players marking her. The Courage were unable to clear the ball, and it fell to Richardson who sent it toward the underside of the crossbar.

The North Carolina Courage (15-5-4) now enter the playoffs looking to reach their third straight final and to win their second straight title. They will host the Reign FC next Sunday. Sky Blue FC (5-14-5) finish this season in eighth place, one spot above last season, and will look make both on and off the field improvements during the offseason.