Jess McDonald scored two goals and the North Carolina Courage won the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns on Saturday. The victory was a bit of revenge for the Courage, which lost by 1-0 to the Thorns in last year’s title match. The Courage (17-1-6) had the league’s best record and did not lose on the road. The team also set N.W.S.L. records this season for the most wins, points and goals. North Carolina won all three meetings during the regular season.
The match was played before a capacity crowd of 21,144 at Providence Park. That was a record for a women’s professional league final in the United States. Brazilian Debinha scored on a header in the 13th minute, and McDonald followed with her own in the 40th. Shortly thereafter, Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch appeared to tweak her ankle, but she returned for the second half. Portland came out energized after halftime, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland stopped a Tobin Heath blast in the 55th minute. McDonald struck again with a header in the 64th minute that Franch got a hand on but could not stop.
McDonald, 30, who has played for five teams in six years, led the league with eight assists in the regular season. She had three goals in the postseason.
“It feels absolutely amazing; this is what we worked so hard for,” McDonald said. “Every single minute, every single day that we put work into — it counted today.”
After her second goal, McDonald removed her jersey top, revealing a T-shirt that read “Jesus Paid It All,” the title of an old hymn. The Courage defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 2-0, on Tuesday night to earn a spot in the championship game. The semifinal was originally scheduled for last Sunday in North Carolina, but it was moved because of Hurricane Florence.
The move left the Courage without a home playoff game; the N.W.S.L. named Providence Park as its championship venue last May. It also meant a shorter turnaround for Saturday’s final. The Thorns (12-6-6) downed the Seattle Reign, 2-1, in their semifinal last Saturday. Portland also won the first N.W.S.L. title in 2013. The Thorns are the only team that has been to the final three times in six years. The Western New York Flash won the title in 2016. After that season, the team was relocated to North Carolina.