SANTA MONICA — While the USWNT has been defending its home turf against other national teams, the North Carolina Courage have been defending the home turf against the international league teams. The Courage claimed the first ever Women’s Internation Champions Cup after defeating five-time UEFA Champions League winner Olympique Lyonnais Feminin 1-0 Sunday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
For a number of reasons, the match up was a stellar watch. Heather O’Reilly not only played against her international team but was the lone scorer in the game, the match presented a challenge to the top team in the NWSL who clinched its playoff spot over five weeks before playoffs even begins, and fans were able to enjoy watching some great soccer all weekend.
Florida never fails to forgo its hot, muggy days when it comes to the July weather, but the Courage didn’t act like it held any effect on them. North Carolina jumped right into its championship game against the Lyonnais and worked to take an early lead. By the 10 minute mark, the Courage held the advantage as Lynn Williams capitalized on a pass behind a sleeping Olympique player.Undefended Williams crossed the ball low just in front of the goal as Heather O’Reilly crashed in to put a foot on the ball. While Lyonnais’ keeper got a foot on the ball, it wasn’t enough to shift its momentum away from the goal. The rest of the night laid on North Carolina’s defense.
Luckily, that’s the Courages’ specialty.
Eighty minutes of the championship game relied on North Carolina’s defense, and they didn’t disappoint. By the 38th minute, defender Sabrina D’Angelo and her defense were called into play. D’Angelo went head-to-head against Lyon’s Shanice van de Sanden and shut down the international player’s advances. It was just the beginning, however, as Olympique would go on to control the game, forcing Carolina on defense time and time again.
Fans watched as D’Angelo led the defense, shutting down Lyon attacks left and right. Following half time, she managed to save a dangerous cross from Olympique midfielder Carolin Simon, but the saves didn’t always look pretty. In the 64th minute, D’Angelo threw her body in the way Amandine Henry’s shot, saving a potential equalizer. The Courages’ defense held Lyonnais off and clinched the title with a 1-0 victory.
Getting to the championship was no easy match for the Courage however. While the team received a first round bye, North Carolina dueled Paris Saint-German in a tough battle. However, the NWSL favorites clinched a 2-1 win over PSG to move on and face Lyonnais in the final.