The Chicago Red Stars celebrate after defeating the Portland Thorns to advance to the NWSL finals. (Photo courtesy of Mash Viral.)
The 2019 NWSL playoffs have been full of excitement so far. Here’s a recap of the semifinals that took place Sunday.
Reign FC vs North Carolina Courage
The Courage scored three unanswered goals in extra time against the Reign FC to finish with a score of 4-1 at home, advancing them to the finals.
“I think we dominated from start to finish to be honest with you,” said Courage Head Coach Paul Riley.
After battling injuries all season, the Reign went into the semi-finals without key defensemen Megan Oyster and Rebecca Quinn. The team did not even get their first shot on net until Megan Rapinoe’s attempt at the 27th minute.
Heather O’Reilly opened the scoring for North Carolina in her final professional season before retirement. The goal, scored off a free kick, didn’t come until the 88th minute of play. Ifeoma Onumonu tied the match in the third minute of the second half stoppage time. In extra time, Debinha Miri sealed the lead for the Courage on her 28th birthday.
Seven minutes later the Courage hit the back of the net a third time when Kristen Hamilton’s ball deflected off Lauren Barnes for an own goal. Crystal Dunn finished off the Courage’s scoring with a low, hard shot from the edge of the Reign’s 18-yard box.
North Carolina has been the regular-season champions for three years in a row now, and are hoping to repeat their second-straight championship again this year.
Chicago Red Stars vs Portland Thorns FC
After finishing second overall in the regular season standings, the Chicago Red Stars surpassed the Portland Thorns in a 1-0 victory this weekend to propel them to their first-ever NWSL championship match.
“We’ve been working toward this game all year and we deserve to be there,” said lone scorer and 2019 Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr. “Huge team effort, not just today but all through the season.”
Though Portland had not lost a match to Chicago since 2013, the classic Nagasato-to-Kerr connection in the first 10 minutes was all the Red Stars needed to change tradition and come out victorious.
In the last two post-seasons, North Carolina has eliminated Chicago in the semi-finals. Tune in to TSN at 3:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 27 to see if the luck will be reversed as the Red Stars face the Courage in Cary, N.C. for the NWSL championship game.