The North Carolina Courage coasted to a 4-0 win over Sky Blue FC, clinching a playoff spot and highlighting the vast difference between the league’s first and last place teams.
Lynn Williams recorded a hat trick during the Courage victory, while Sky Blue FC star Carli Lloyd continued to struggle during her return to her home state squad.
If the Courage (14-1-3, 45 points) six 16 points ahead of second place Seattle Reign and the rest of the crowded NWSL field. If North Carolina earns a win next week and Seattle loses, the Courage will clinch the NWSL Shield after dominating the regular season.
Sky Blue (0-12-3, 3 points), meanwhile, extended the NWSL’s longest winless streak.
In the 15th minute, Kristen Hamilton pushed to save a ball that was rolling out of bounds and pushed a cross into the box. Abby Erceg headed it home to give the Courage a 1-0 lead.
Sky Blue’s defense stood firm the remainder of the first half, but they took more risks in the second half and struggled to stop North Carolina on the counter-attack.
In the 56th minute, Hamilton was pushing the ball up the right side of the box. Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan came out to challenge her and Hamilton crossed to Williams, who easily put the ball in the back of the net despite a light challenge by the Sky Blue defense.
In the 72nd minute, Debinha found Williams on the left flank and Williams swiftly pushed the ball past Sheridan for the score.
And in the 89th minute, Williams intercepted a weak pass back to Sheridan and easily put it away for the hat trick.
“We moved the ball well in the first half, but we were in a position where we had to be much more attack-oriented in the second half,” Sky Blue FC coach Denise Reddy said. “It was a bit risky to send numbers forward like we did in the second half, especially when North Carolina is such a good team in transition. However, it was worth taking the chance because we have to show a willingness to go for it in those types of situations.”