Cary, N.C.- This afternoon, the North Carolina Courage hosted the Chicago Red Stars for their very first playoff game at WakeMed Soccer Park where 10,017 spectators gathered to watch an intense match that advanced one team to the finals, leaving the other to fight it out for third or fourth place for this season.
The two teams have faced each other three times this season, making the final fight for a win to seek advancement to the NWSL Championship in this match extremely important for both teams.
In the first minute of the match, the Courage immediately put pressure on the Red Stars to display dominance early on. The first half was also a challenge as Chicago and North Carolina struggled to see accuracy in their shots and resulted in both goalkeepers only making one save each. There was an opportunity in the three added minutes of stoppage time when Courage defender Abby Erceg headed the ball past Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Defender Katie Naughton of the Red Stars made an incredible save as she cleared the ball from the goal line to switch the field, but by the end of the half, the match remained scoreless.
The Courage had to keep up with Chicago in the second half as the Red Stars were defending well and have a record of three wins against North Carolina this season. As the minutes drew closer to the 90 minute mark, having to go to overtime for the two 15 minute periods or even penalty kicks seemed likely. The 90th minute came and Courage midfielder Sam Mewis began the play with a corner kick and was received by forward Jess McDonald as she headed the ball. McDonald’s move made way to Denise O’Sullivan, who took a shot and made its way past the Red Stars back-line and goalkeeper to score the game-winning goal for the Courage.
“The second half was a really good performance for us,” said head coach Paul Riley. “In the first half, we looked a little bit nervous. We were coughing the ball up and giving balls away, and it wasn’t really like us. McCall [Zerboni] and Sam [Mewis] got themselves together at halftime and I think they changed the game around. We’ve lost to them three times this year so it was nice to win one against them. Chicago is a very good side. I’m just proud of the troops.”
The Courage’s 1-0 victory against the Chicago Red Stars marks the first win for North Carolina in a total of four games. This victory also advances them to the NWSL Championship game that will take place on Saturday, October 14th at 4:30 ET. The NC Courage will face the Portland Thorns for the NWSL Championship at Orlando City Stadium next weekend.
NC-Denise O’Sullivan 89’
CHI-Danielle Colaprico 36’
NC COURAGE: #9-Lynn Williams, #12-Ashley Hatch (#14-Jessica McDonald 83’), #8-Denise O’Sullivan, #7-McCall Zerboni, #5-Samantha Mewis, #10-Debinha De Oliveria (#23-Kristen Hamilton 10’), #15-Jalene Hinkle, #6-Abby Erceg, #13-Abby Dahlkemper, #11-Taylor Smith, 0-Katelyn Rowland
Subs not used: #1-Sabrina D’Angelo, #3-Makenzy Doniak, #25-Meredith Speck, #26-Sam Witteman
CHICAGO RED STARS: #1-Alyssa Naeher, #6-Casey Short, #5-Katie Naughton, #3-Arin Gilliland, #16-Sam Johnson (#9-Stephanie McCaffrey 91’), #10-Vanessa Dibernardo, #24-Danielle Colaprico (#4-Alyssa Mautz 91’), #8-Julie Ertz, #11-Sofia Huerta, #23-Christen Press, #2-Jen Hoy (#12-Yuki Nagasato 57’)
Subs not used: #18-Michele Dalton, #14-Sarah Gorden, #7-Taylor Comeau, #19-Summer Green
TOTAL SHOTS: NC 19-6 CHI
SHOTS ON GOAL: NC 5-1 CHI
FOULS: NC 9-10 CHI
OFFSIDES: NC 1-2 CHI
CORNER KICKS: NC 9-1 CHI
SAVES: NC 1-3 CHI