Debinha’s late goal lifts Courage over thorns in historic win

The Equalizer Staff April 22, 2017 39
Debinha heads it in as goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and Amandine Henry (28) look on helplessly. (photo ocopyright Lewis Gettier)

Debinha heads it in as goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and Amandine Henry (28) look on helplessly. (photo ocopyright Lewis Gettier)

Brazil’s Debinha scored her first National Women’s Soccer League goal as the North Carolina Courage defeat Portland Thorns FC, 1-0, in Saturday’s inaugural home opener at Sahlen’s Stadium. The highly competitive matchup was the first women’s professional soccer league game played in North Carolina since 2003.

The Courage (2-0) currently sit atop the NWSL rankings with six points—Houston (1-0) played at Seattle in the night game. Portland dropped to 1-1.

In a contest featuring a plethora of capable scorers, both defenses were made to work extremely hard Saturday. But it was North Carolina, keeping high pressure, that controlled possession and was more aggressive on offense.

Despite playing with only three in the back, the Courage defense, led by New Zealand’s Abby Erceg, kept Portland’s always dangerous Christine Sinclair fairly quiet—she did seem to be moving gingerly after a hard tackle by Yuri Kawamura in the first half that resulted in a yellow card.

Though the Thorns almost struck first—in the 10th minute—when Allie Long slipped through the defense and nearly snuck a shot from the goal line inside the far post, North Carolina outshot Portland, 12-3, Saturday with nearly 50 percent of those attempts on frame.

McCall Zerboni took North Carolina’s first real shot, firing one from distance in the 16th minute but missing just wide. Three minutes later, speedy forward Jessica McDonald, last year’s league MVP, got her head on a cross from Makenzy Doniak but couldn’t find the net. In the 30th minute, Debinha dazzled the home crowd with a bicycle kick that didn’t miss sneaking inside the left post by much.

Portland had another major opportunity in the 32nd minute, when the Courage misplayed a ball in the back but goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo was quick to come off her line and clean it up. Lynn Williams had a good look just before halftime, getting her left foot on Zerboni’s great flick over Portland’s backline but skimmed it past the post.

In the 55th minute Sam Mewis launched a shot from distance that Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch deflected toward Williams, but she was called offside. Shortly after, Williams created a one-on-one situation with Franch but knocked the ball just wide.

Williams drew a penalty kick in the 73rd minute when a cross attempt hit the hand of Portland defender Emily Sonnett, but Franch came up with a huge save on Mewis’ attempt.

Debinha, who had certain made her presence in the offensive third be known all evening, converted the historical game winner in the 81st minute, heading a cleverly set up cross by Williams, far post.

The Courage next host the Orlando Pride April 29 at 4 p.m. while Portland will look to rebound against the Chicago Red Stars.

  • guest

    attendance was 6298. capacity is 10,000

    • Lorehead

      That’s 50% higher than the Flash’s home opener last year.

      • guest

        and 200 less than their home finale

        and 10% closer to capacity than Orlando was to theirs

        and a bunch of other comparisons that don’t mean anything

        • Steglitz49

          It is a lot more than Chicago with a fraction of the population base.

      • Grimm Report

        I don’t think WNY was ever last in attendance for a season. Pretty sure they were fifth over all last year. Also pretty sure that number would have been higher had fans known their team was under threat of sale.

        • Steglitz49

          Facts are sacred; opinion is free.

          • Gary Diver

            An aside: “Facts are sacred; opinion is free” in the postmodern world has unfortunately lost much of its cachet.

        • mockmook

          So you think if an owner threatens to (in effect) move a team if attendance doesn’t improve, that will create better attendance?

          • Steglitz49

            The owners did not move the team but instead sold the team yett paid to name the stadium they play in in NC. Smart move.

        • Lorehead

          That’s not a knock on fans in Rochester. Great to see strong support anywhere.

          • Grimm Report

            Thanks for the clarification.

    • Guest

      That’s a good start for them I think. Their ~new~ fans definitely got an entertaining first game too.

      If they can average anywhere above 5,000 that would have to be considered a success.

    • Rdalford

      attendance of 6298 for NC Courage’s first home match is slightly higher attendance than the men’s NASL side NC FC. The men’s NC FC team drew 6058 and 4293 to their first 2 home matches.

      Will be interesting to see if NC Courage can match/or maintain the slight attendance lead over the men’s NC FC side – ownership would of course hope that both sides get nearer to the 10,000 capacity but 6298 is good start.

  • Katie Curtiss

    Aside from Seattle, I think the Courage (ex. Flash) are one of the only teams that don’t let the Thorns bully them around. And when they do, the Courage (ex. Flash) know how to dish out the same as what the Thorns give

    • rkmid71

      Good for the Courage or any other team. You’ve got to match an eye for an eye or stand your ground in the physicality category. Once teams started doing that with Wambach, she was done. Lloyd is similar. She doesn’t have the ball skills or even athleticism to compete any other way. I feel like the French WNT are finally getting that’s what they need to do too, at least against the USWNT. Imo, I think that’s why JE seems to be trying to transform (but not doing it very fast or not fully committed) how the USWNT plays — because the physicality component isn’t working as well anymore. Except maybe in England, in Europe, their default and preference is not really playing that way (more cerebral and technical), but they will if they have to.

      • Steglitz49

        That is why the US regularly have a hard time against Sweden in matches that matter because the Swedes stand their ground and don’t meekly say: “after you ma’am”. Other NT coaches have started to cotton on to this simple strategy.

    • justsomedude

      can someone tell me what team Tobin Heath is currently on?

      • DNG

        Thorns. She has a back injury

        • justsomedude

          Thanks, is it serious?

          • DNG

            Supposedly back in training this week. Probably will be some update on her progress tomorrow. Parsons said last week he hopes to give her some minutes in the game this weekend. which will be on Lifetime or +VPN IP outside the us.

  • Terry Lash

    Any word about Horan’s injury? She was not having a particularly good game before the injury, and she showed no interest in trying to return to the game, quickly indicating she wanted a substitute as she walked off the field.

    • tonysocref

      Nothing yet. Also waiting to hear what’s up with Kling. Not normal to come out of the match at HT unless it was injury related.

      • Katie Curtiss

        I would assume for Kling that it’s her lower back maybe. I know that as of late that is what’s been ailing her

  • Ashley C

    NC isn’t scared when they play the Thorns and it’s a breath of fresh air. They practically bullied them off the ball but especially in the midfield. I really enjoy watching them (and I love their kits) on the counter. You beat Portland with speed and NC gives the blueprint.

    • Steglitz49

      If you call Portland by their team name then I put it to you that you should refer to the team in NC by its name, Courage. Alternatively, you could call Portland Portland and then the team in NC presumably becomes Cary, but if you want to use NC then Portland must be OR.

      • Ashley C

        Alternatively you could find a life that doesn’t consist solely of giving useless facts on a football website…but here we are.

        • Steglitz49

          Maybe you could make your own start by counting the foreign players in the starting XI of Lyon and PSG?

  • FAME

    Missing Jess Kassouf so much. He infused such love for the women’s game in his reporting. Just not the same without him.

    • FAME

      Williams should be McDonald in the following line; “Debinha, who had certain made her presence in the offensive third be known all evening, converted the historical game winner in the 81st minute, heading a cleverly set up cross by Williams, far post.”

  • JL

    Mewis should never take a penalty for Carolina ever again. I would prefer Dahlkemper, Hinkle, or Williams to do the honors.

    • Steglitz49

      There are other (USWNT) players who can be added to that list.

    • Katie Curtiss

      Based on Lynn Williams PK that she took in the final last year, I would have her take them, then maybe AD. Paul Riley said in post game interview after the final that when Williams even practiced her PK that it scared the s$%t out of him

      • DNG

        Well if Williams doesn’t get the keeper to commit and guess it will look exactly like what we saw from Mewis. Mewis’ attempt was very poor though so someone else needs to take them.

        • Steglitz49

          Not everyone is a Dahlkvist or Miyama.

        • Katie Curtiss

          Look at the time 5:35, Lynn Williams doesn’t even run up to the ball when she takes her PK shot, she maybe takes a half a step and buries it. That’s my whole point about her taking the PK instead of Mewis, the fact that she doesn’t even have to run up to the ball and buries the shot is crazy

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  • DNG

    Thorns were comprehensively outplayed in this one. No real answers for NC’s high pressure and I wouldn’t put it all at the feet the Thorns not being healthy. Back 5 have a lot of shaping up to do if they want to win the shield and championship this year. Thought Sinclair’s declining mobility was really evident in this match too.

  • guest

    EQ staff/editor
    “Three minutes later, speedy forward Jessica McDonald, last year’s league MVP, got her head on a cross from Makenzy Doniak but couldn’t find the net. ”

    2016 NWSL MVP was Lynn Williams

    not clear if staff writer intended McDonald (in which case MVP reference is in error) or Williams (so error in name ) – but sentence as written is confusing/inaccurate

  • VaFan51

    Watching this match from the stands, I was reminded, yet again, how much better quality soccer is in person than on a screen of any size.
    The match had the real feel of a genuine coast-to-coast (almost) rivalry in the making. It’s April and the intensity was on full display.