What a game. What a season.
The North Carolina Courage won their second consecutive NWSL Championship yesterday, beating the Chicago Red Stars 4-0. They won the title the typical North Carolina way: through superior firepower. And while the Red Stars have plenty of positives to take away from the game and this season, the Courage fully deserved their win.
Here are our takeaways from the 2019 NWSL Championship.
There’s no polite way to say it: North Carolina pushed Chicago around. They looked calm, focused, and utterly relentless. The Red Stars struggled to get anything going, spending most of the first 45 pinned back in their own half. They kept coming up short in all their 1v1 match-ups, with Katie Naughton in particular getting routinely outplayed by Debinha.
Simply put: without knowing anything about either team, it was pretty easy to pick out which team has played in a Championship Final before and which team hasn’t. Chicago will undoubtedly learn a lot about from this game and, hopefully, come better equipped next time. But this year, the lack of experience in championship games cost them dearly.
Take A Bow, Debinha
The Brazilian international was named as the game MVP— and with very good reason.
Arguably one of Chicago’s biggest strengths this season was their midfield. Yet Debinha, almost entirely by herself, effectively neutralized that advantage. Morgan Brian’s technical acumen didn’t do her any good, while Danielle Colaprico was left to plead with the referees to please just do something.
In short: Debinha overwhelmed her opponents in 1v1 play, and was the lynchpin in North Carolina’s relentless onslaught. Whatever reputation she had as one of the league’s best-kept secrets was blown up on Sunday; everyone knows her name now.
In three years as an NWSL team, North Carolina have won the championship twice and finished runners-up the other time. I think we can all safely call this a Dynasty now.
The Courage fell off the pace a bit in 2019, dropping points in games that the 2018 version of the team never would have allowed. Quite a few teams were able to expose vulnerabilities in North Carolina this season— including, until Sunday, the Red Stars.
But when it really counts, the Courage now how to turn on the after-burners. Given the current state of the league, when NC are at 100%, they’re basically unstoppable.
Between expansion and rumored changes to player compensation rules, the league is going to experience some big changes this offseason. But one thing almost certainly won’t change— the Courage will have crowns on their heads and targets on their backs. As NWSL clubs head into the winter, every decision on the pitch will have to be filtered through one lens: how to beat North Carolina. No one’s figured it out yet, but you can expect the rest of the league will step up their games in 2020.
What were your takeaways from the game? Let us know in the comments below!