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North Carolina Courage

North Carolina Courage earn 2-1 win over Portland Thorns, clinch NWSL Shield

The North Carolina Courage continued their dominant season, rolling to a 2-1 win over the Portland Thorns and earning the NWSL Shield in Cary, N.C., Sunday.

Two first-half Lynn Williams goals the Courage (15-1-4, 49 points) record a season sweep the Thorns (8-6-5, 29 points), last year’s NWSL champions.

The sole blemish during an otherwise strong match was the goal off a free kick the Courage surrendered early in the second half.

“I thought it was a really, really good performance,” Courage coach Paul Riley said. “Disappointed with the free kick. We talked about it the last 48 hours, about stopping Horan on the free kicks, but we gave a silly one away. We should have cleared it and paid the price. But, great performance – I think worthy of winning the shield after that performance.

The Courage thought they earned a big scoring opportunity when Jessica McCdonald appeared to be taken down in the box in the 30th minute, but the referee didn’t award North Carolina a penalty kick.

After the ref’s decision, it didn’t take long for the Courage to earn their first goal.

McDonald wove through three Portland defenders and sent a cross to Williams, who put it away in the 37th minute and gave the Courage a 1-0 lead.

In the 45th minute, Williams pounced on an poor Portland clearance and pushed North Carolina ahead 2-0.

Portland countered in the 49 minute. Tobin Heath delivered a free kick Lindsey Horan headed home. It was, however, the Thorns’ sole goal.

Williams and Horan are now tied for the league lead in goals with 10 apiece.

North Carolina got a chance to celebrate earning the NWSL Shield in front an announced home crowd of 5,379.

“It’s great. I think it shows that all of our hard work in the regular season has paid off,” Williams said. “But we’re staying hungry. We want to continue out the season and continue building and see how far we can go with this thing. It’s a great feeling. I think we’ll go back tonight and have a little celebration of just like, ‘We’ve done this,’ but the season’s not over.”

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