The North Carolina Courage got a dose of revenge when they kicked off the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League season, earning a 1-0 home victory over the Portland Thorns Saturday.
The Courage were the 2017 NWSL Shield winners, but they suffered a 1-0 loss to the Thorns in the 2017 NWSL championship game.
North Carolina controlled possession much of the match Saturday, but the two sides were locked at 0-0 during the halftime break.
Courage midfielder Denise O’Sullivan started the game-winning run in the second half, controlling the ball on a swift run until she could deliver the ball to Debinha, who was unmarked in the box.
Debinha then slotted the ball past Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch in the 70th minute.
“It was a good performance,” Courage coach Paul Riley told reporters following the win. “We created five, six really good chances, I think, to win the game. We didn’t give a lot away, and it’s nice to start on a clean sheet at home.
“Last year, we kind of built it on clean sheets and, hopefully we can do the same this year. Happy with the result at home. It was a great winner – what a goal to win the game, and Debinha’s been doing that for most of preseason when she’s been here. She’s a different player, and it’s great to have her here and go 100 percent.”
The match drew an announced crowd of 4,210 despite rain.
A great way to start the season but a big thanks to our fans for coming out to watch in terrible conditions 💙
— Denise O'Sullivan (@OSullivanDenise) March 24, 2018
Due to national team call-ups and injuries, the Thorns were playing without Hayley Raso, Tobin Heath, Andressinha and Emily Menges.
Given the key missing pieces, Portland coach Mark Parsons said he was pleased with his club’s effort.
“Missing five internationals, two key players to injury, and two draft picks – nine players – you’d never guess it, because we’re walking away disappointed that we didn’t get three points,” Parsons said. “This is a very good Carolina Courage team that we’ve got respect for. To perform like this away from home, we didn’t do this once last year … We wanted to start the season on that strong foot, and I thought we did.”