Thanks for joining us here at VAVEL USA. I've been Willa Grefe, check back later for a full recap of tonight's action.
A deserved and hard-fought win for the Courage who dodged some missed chances and finished the game with a well-worked goal courtesy of tonight's star player, Debinha. Portland will be left with questions about their possession and their backline. Similar to the semifinal between these two sides last year, Portland didn't quite have a response for North Carolina's pressure.
FT: The Courage defeat the Portland Thorns 1-0 in their home opener! Debinha gets the game-winner.
90+ Dahlkemper clears the corner. Portland recover, and Nadim sends a weak cross in that D'Angelo gathers and holds.
90+ Portland in possession with Raso breaking down the left flank. Her cross is cleared by Erceg.
There will be a minimum of three minutes of added time.
89' Cox sends in a cross. Raso connects, but can't make clean contact. The Thorns pushing for a late equalizer.
88' North Carolina Substitution: rookie Ashley Hatch debuts, replacing McDonald.
84' North Carolina Substitution: Rosana makes her debut. She comes on for the goal-scorer Debinha.
McDonald waited, waited for a runner and Debinha came flying through the penalty area. All McDonald had to do was chip it to her and the Courage have their first goal in their new home.
81' Goal North Carolina Courage! Debinha heads home courtesy of Jess McDonald and the Courage lead 1-0!
Tonight's official attendance: 6,298
77' Portland Substitution: Mana Shim replaces Lindsey Horan.
77' North Carolina Substitution: Taylor Smith enters the game, replacing Makenzy Doniak.
75' And on the ensuing play, Mewis fouls Horan and gets a yellow card. A rough spell for Mewis. She hit her penalty along the ground, but it was too soft and too close to Franch. The score is still tied 0-0.
75' Save by Franch! Mewis goes low and Franch stuffs her!
74' Handball on Portland! Penalty for the Courage.
72' Nadim whips in a free kick. It skims off Williams' head for a Portland corner.
70' Two corners in a row for Portland. McDonald thought she had a breakaway on the clearance, but she's called offside.
68' Doniak runs at Cox and gets a cross off, but it's straight into the gloves of Franch.
67' Raso is involved straight away on defense, as the Aussie tracks back to relieve Debinha of the ball.
65' Foul against Portland as Henry rolls Mewis and has a few words about it. No cards given.
65' Substitute for Portland: Hayley Raso enters for Mallory Weber
64' Long shot by Long flashes wide of the far post.
63' Free kick cleared out, but Mewis sends it right back for the Courage. There are some shouts for handball, but they're waved off by the referee.
61' Two quick fouls by Portland give North Carolina a free kick from 35 yards, Dahlkemper to take.
60' Another great run by Williams. She cut past Sonnett and got endline, winning a corner for the Courage.
58' What a chance for Williams! The forward got free on an early through ball, cut back on Menges, but placed her shot just wide of the far post.
55' Zerboni hooks a right-footed shot wide of the goal.
54' Offside on North Carolina. Mewis teed up a shot from distance that Franch spilled. Williams was called offside as she tried to capitalize on the rebound.
53' Much more patient possession from both teams so far as they look to build from the back.
51' Debinha had the idea to step over the ball and play it quickly for Williams in behind, but the two aren't on the same page. A moment later Williams turns on the jets and gets by Menges, but can't connect with a Courage player in the box.
49' Doniak collides with Horan. Free kick awarded to Portland about 40 yards out.
47' Portland starting out more methodical in this second half. It's a little hard to imagine that either team could keep up their first-half pace, but stranger things have happened when these two get together.
46' McDonald heaves a long throw in to Mewis who flicks it on and out of bounds for a goal kick.
And we're underway from Cary. North Carolina and Portland are all tied up 0-0.
Substitution for Portland: Meghan Cox enters the game for Klingenberg.
Mewis and Zerboni lead the on-field prep talk for the Courage. Portland are taking the field, Parsons is speaking with some defenders.
One minute until the start of the second half. Will either team grab a winner in this second half?
Portland will be frustrated that their midfield can't get a better handle on the game. Henry has been kept quiet, and Long and Henry have been pulled deep to defend, leaving Sinclair isolated too often.
Debinha is doubling down on her exciting debut. The Brazilian has been at the center of a lot of exciting buildup for the Courage tonight.
An exciting half for the Courage, who have had a number of opportunities to take the lead. They mostly kept Portland pinned back in their own half, although the Thorns did have some good chances to score on set plays or long service.
And that will do it for the first half! The Courage and the Thorns go into halftime tied 0-0.
The referee has indicated there will be one minute of added time.
45' Zerboni bowls over Horan, but the Courage steal the ball right back off the free kick and Williams gets a quick shot off that sails over the bar.
43' Happy feet by Debinha! The midfielder dances past a couple of Thorns, but can't get a shot on frame.
41' What a shot by Williams! She rode off pressure by Menges and hit a half-volley that whistled past the far corner.
39' North Carolina really keeping the pressure up on Portland. The Thorns are haveing trouble getting the ball out of their own half.
36' Another dangerous ball by Doniak to the back post. McDonald's header deflects off Sonnett and out for a corner kick.
34' Klingenberg flights a chipped cross into the box looking for Weber or Nadim, but there's too much on the ball and it's out for a goal kick.
32' Long gets a toe to a cross by Horan, but the shot is weak and straight at D'Angelo.
31' Shot from distance by Henry! She forces D'Angelo into a save on a great shot from midfield.
29' Bicycle kick by Debinha! It doesn't go in, but it's the end of a great spell for the Courage. Williams sprints past Sonnett and lays a cross off for Doniak at the far post. Her shot is deflected by McDonald, and Debinha makes the most of a bouncing ball and almost gets the Courage's first home goal on a spectacular bike.
28' Big ups by Erceg to clear the ball before it can reach the danger area. The Courage retake possession.
27' Nadim is over the free kick for Portland.
26' Sinclair is down on the field for Portland. She went down under a late challenge by Kawamura, who receives a yellow card. The forward is being attended to by the training staff.
24' Free kick for Portland as Klingenberg is taken down on a long run. On the ensuing kick D'Angelo claims the ball a moment before Henry can connect on the header.
23' Portland taking heavy fire! Long and Horan both step in front of dangerous shots, and finally Franch catches a service by Doniak to break some of the pressure.
22' Franch gathers a bouncing ball off a long throw-in. She'll send it forward for Sinclair, but she's beaten to it in the air by Erceg.
The Courage are working to build up a rhythm. They're first to every ball at the moment.
18' Flying header by McDonald! The forward threw herself at a cross by Doniak, but her header is wide of the net. The score is still tied 0-0.
17' Almost a deadly giveaway by the Courage. Zerboni seemed to slip as she played a back pass, and her ball almost found Nadim completely unmarked behind the entire North Carolina backline.
16' Sonnett arrives with a tackle as Williams was looking to turn the corner at the endline. Corner for the Courage.
15' The Courage keep it coming! This time Hinkle picks out Doniak at the opposite side of the box. Her cross is deflected to Zerboni, who shanks her shot wide of the goal.
14' Giveaway in the back by Menges! Her clearance bounces off McDonald, but the center-back recovers and tackles the ball clear.
14' Doniak collides with Henry from behind, and the Thorns are awarded a free kick just inside their half.
11' Franch with some cool feet under pressure as she clears a ball with Williams charging down on her.
10' This time it's Portland who come close with a long ball over the top. Boureille played a ball over Kawamura to Long, who had made a run from her midfield position. Long received the ball over her shoulder and fired a cross across goal, but there was no one there for Portland to put it away.
8' Both teams putting pressure on the ball wherever it goes. So far North Carolina have had the better of the possession and are looking to threaten with long balls over the top.
6' Dahlkemper's free kick causes some problems in Portland's box as it ricochets around. The ball is clared out by Allie Long and Portland look to come the other way.
4' The Courage work a good build-up as Hinkle plays in Williams at the top of the box. She was able to find a pass to McDonald, but Sonnett arrived in time to clear the danger for Portland.
3' Just off target by Portland! A fast start to this one as Nadim's ball is a centimeter too far for Allie Long, who was free in the box.
2' Nadim is clipped from behind trying to run onto a long ball out of the back. Portland will have a free kick from 40 yards.
2' Good early look by the Courage. Dahlkemper flighted a corner to the back post. McDonald outjumped everybody, but the ball came off the back of her head and out of bounds for a Portland goal kick.
1' McDonald goes to work on the left flank but her cross is blocked out for a corner kick by Sonnett.
1': And we're underway from Cary, N.C.! The Courage have kick-off, and Mewis sends a long ball forward that's cut out by Boureille.
The warm-ups are wrapped up. We're moments from kick-off in the North Carolina Courage's first ever home opener against the Portland Thorns.
Both teams are on the field for the national anthem.
Some injury notes on todays lineups: Darian Jenkins and Elizabeth Eddy are out for the Courage. Jenkins is on the 45-day Disabled List with a broken left fibula and Eddy has a right hamstring strain.
We're a little less than 20 minutes out from kick-off. Fans can stream the game via the go90 app and, as of today, a live stream on the go90 website, go90.com.
Abby Erceg will captain the Courage tonight. Christine Sinclair will wear the armband for the visiting Portland Thorns.
Tonight's game is being played in WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. It's opening night for the Courage, but the stadium is already familiar to fans of women's soccer, having hosted the USWNT and the NCAA College Cup in recent years.
The Portland Thorns make no changes from the lineup that beat Orlando last weekend. The Courage make two changes. Abby Erceg gets the start in her first appearance this season. She is at center-back while Yuri Kawamura, who played at CB last game, moves to the right.
North Carolina Substitutes: Rowland, Rosana, Smith, Hatch, Hamilton, Speck, Witteman
North Carolina Starting XI: D'Angelo; Hinkle, Erceg, Dahlkemper, Kawamura, Zerboni, Debinha, Mewis, Doniak, Williams, McDonald
Portland Substitutes: Eckerstrom, Cox, Shim, Raso, Morris
Portland Thorns Starting XI: Franch; Boureille, Sonnett, Menges, Klingenberg, Henry, Long, Horan, Nadim, Sinclair, Weber.
If Nadia Nadim scores tonight she will become the first player in the NWSL to register a goal against every team in league history. Nadim had the game-winner against Orlando last weekend.
Both teams are loaded with talent in midfield. Portland’s center three of Horan, Long, and Amandine Henry is probably the best in the league, so it falls for North Carolina midfielders Mewis and Debinha to prevent the Courage from getting too stretched.
Defense is an area to watch for both teams. The Courage have two new players, Witteman and Yuri Kawamura, in their backline, while the Thorns have slotted Celeste Boureille in at right-back to replace Reynolds and handed the starting keeper job to Adrianna Franch. North Carolina had little to deal with last Saturday so this will mark their first stout test, while Portland has much to improve on after a worrying performance in the back against Orlando. That concern has cause as the Courage have a very fast and direct front-line that is probably salivating at the thought of unleashing Williams and Zerboni’s speed at Franch, whose footwork in the back has resulted in more than a few unforced errors.
On the Courage’s side, left back Elizabeth Eddy has been dealing with a hamstring injury that kept her out of the starting lineup on opening weekend. Her position was filled by Samantha Witteman in her first game for the club since being acquired from the Orlando Pride.
That’s good news because Portland has been hard-hit by injuries so far this season. Three starters from last years Shield-winning team, including the 2016 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Tobin Heath, will not be traveling to Cary for the match as Heath, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, and Katherine Reynolds have all been ruled out of the game.
Both teams return all their goalscorers from that match. The Courage field Samantha Mewis, Makenzy Doniak, and Lynn Williams, who had a brace, while the Thorns have Sinclair, Emily Sonnett, and Lindsey Horan, who is back in play for Portland after missing preseason due to injury.
Portland midfielder Allie Long commented about that game on timbers.com: “We all remember what it felt like when we lost in the semifinals in that crazy game. Every year we set a goal to win the championship, so losing like that sets a precedent for how this feeling and we’re hungry. This is the first year there’s not been much turnover. It’s pretty much the same team as we had last year and it’s the first time we’ve ever had that. It’s a really cool feeling because everyone has bought in. Everyone felt the way we felt last year, so we’re all on the same page. We’re super hungry and passionate. We enjoy being on the field together, we enjoy Mark [Parsons], we enjoy this whole community and being in Portland. It doesn’t get any better.”
While not technically a true re-match, this marks the first time these groups of players have met since Portland hosted the Western New York Flash (under new ownership and rebranded as the Courage) in the 2016 NWSL Semifinals. That meeting produced a barnburner of legendary proportions as the upstart Flash grabbed the win in a back and forth thriller that produced seven goals.
Speaking about that game to timbers.com, Portland head coach Mark Parsons said that “It was a wild, challenging game. It looked like a basketball game. Sometimes you cling onto your seat hoping things don’t break down and the next minute you’re trying to celebrate a goal. It’s great to get the three points, but I think the clean sheet is big time and it’s a platform for us to build off.”
The Portland Thorns opened the 2017 season in front of a record crowd in Portland and treated their fans to a 2-0 win over the Orlando Pride on goals by Nadia Nadim and Christine Sinclair.
Both teams come into the match with three points courtesy of the first week of NWSL action. In the franchise’s first ever match, the NC Courage traveled to Maryland where they defeated the Washington Spirit 1-0 thanks to a first half goal by McCall Zerboni, the first in franchise history.
Hello and welcome to VAVEL USA’s LIVE coverage of the second week of NWSL play. This Saturday has the North Carolina Courage in action as they host the Portland Thorns in their home opener in Cary, NC. My name is Willa Grefe and I’ll be your host for this game. Kick-off is set for 7:30 pm ET Saturday evening and we’ll be bringing you pre-game analysis, roster updates, and news as it happens here on VAVEL. Fans can stream the game live via the go90 app.