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Courage win Shield with 4-0 shutout of Dash

The North Carolina Courage only needed one goal to win the NWSL Shield Wednesday night, but they scored four for good measure, shutting out the Houston Dash, 4-0. Sam Mewis scored the game winner in the first 15 minutes of the match, while Lynn Williams, Debinha and Ashley Hatch all contributed singles on the night.  

The Courage are technically the defending NWSL Champions after the then-Western New York Flash finished fourth in the league before going on to first defeat the 2016 Shield-winning Portland Thorns and then the Washington Spirit to be crowned league champions. This season the newly bought, relocated, and rebranded team did what they couldn’t do last year: win the Shield. They now face one more regular season match before attempting to be the first team to win the Shield and the NWSL Championship in the same season.

Wednesday’s midweek match-up was the rescheduled date for a match originally postponed because of Hurricane Harvey and, due to a scheduling conflict at BBVA Compass Stadium, was played at HEB Park in Edinburg, Texas. As a result, both squads implemented some squad rotation, with Courage head coach Paul Riley making five changes from the lineup he used on Sunday night against Sky Blue FC. Most notably, Sabrina D’Angelo returned in goal for the first time since May 27, earning her fourth shutout of the season.

Rookie goalkeeper Jane Campbell didn’t have as good of a night as D’Angelo, giving up four goals. The first of those came in the 13th minute when the Courage were awarded a free kick following a Nichelle Prince foul on Sam Witteman, starting at right back in place of Taylor Smith, near the far sideline. The Courage were quick to take the kick, catching several Dash players off guard and allowing Sam Mewis to move into the far corner of the box, where she fired off a low shot that rolled past Campbell’s diving attempt at a save and into the bottom left corner of the goal.

Abby Erceg nearly doubled the Courage’s lead minutes later when she ripped off a hard shot off a North Carolina corner kick, but she was denied by the crossbar. Just after the half-hour mark, Makenzy Doniak dummied a low cross from Lynn Williams, setting Debinha up for a shot that was stopped by Campbell. Although the keeper initially failed to collect and the ball came dangerously close to rolling over the goal line, she got to it in the knick of time to prevent the Courage from doubling their lead.

Williams was finally able to put away the second Courage goal of the night in the 38th minute after Ashley Hatch played a diagonal ball into space for her. Unable to use her trademark speed to beat the defense, Williams instead cut back to shake off the two Dash defenders and moved into better scoring position before putting a shot just over a sliding defender and inside the far post. The Courage entered halftime sitting on a comfortable two-nil lead.

Dash interim coach Omar Morales made a personnel change at the half, replacing Andressinha with Caity Heap, but the strategy proved ineffective as the Courage continued dominating in the final 45. It seemed as though the second half had barely begun before Debinha had scored to put the Courage up 3-0. Mewis was once again instrumental on the goal, driving the ball down the far side before crossing in front of goal. Hatch just got a touch on it before Debinha sent it past Campbell with her right foot.

Debinha returned the favor less than five minutes later, sending a lofted ball over the Houston defense and into space for the rookie forward. Campbell likely could have gotten to the ball first, but hesitated to come off her line, allowing Hatch to go one-v-one with her, ultimately beating her with the shot. Hatch’s goal was the fourth of the night for the Courage and the seventh of her rookie year.

Both teams will next close out the NWSL regular seasons this weekend. The Courage return home to take on the fourth-ranked Orlando Pride on Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET, while the Dash will head to Kansas City to take on the Blues for the final match of 2017. Those two teams face off on Sunday, October 1 at 6 p.m. ET.

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