Dunn, Courage Win NWSL Title

Dunn, Courage, NWSL, ESPN
Crystal Dunn (19) and her Courage teammates celebrate. Photo: Courage Twitter page

It was a fitting end to what was a dominating season for the North Carolina Courage, which on Saturday defeated the Portland Thorns 3-0 to capture the 2018 NWSL Championship.

While the league title will be heading to Cary, NC, this year’s title has a distinct Long Island imprint. Rockville Centre native Crystal Dunn, who was named to the NWSL Best XI, has been a fixture in the Courage starting XI this season and head coach Paul Riley also has strong ties to the youth soccer community on Long Island.

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In addition, East Islip native Cari Roccaro and Meredith Speck of Rockville Centre were in North Carolina’s lineup for the final in Portland but did not see game action.

Following a regular season in which the Courage went 17-1-6 (WLD), North Carolina’s two-game postseason run included a 2-0 win over Chicago Red Stars in the playoff semi-final and 3-0 over Portland on Saturday in the finals.

The Courage had to overcome spending a week in Portland as its semi-final match originally scheduled for Saturday, September 15, in North Carolina, was moved to this past Tuesday at Providence Park in Portland — the Thorns home field — because of Hurricane Florence.

In the finals on Saturday played before a sellout crowd of 21,144, North Carolina in the first half showed it dominance and jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Debinha in the 13th minute and Jessica McDonald in the 40th minute. McDonald would give the Courage a three-goal cushion with her second of the night in the 64th minute.

Although Portland won the possession battle 60 percent to 40 percent, North Carolina outshot the Thorns 23-14, with five of those shots on goal vs. three for Portland.