Cary, NC – The North Carolina Courage, Cary’s home women’s soccer team, have already proven themselves as the most dominant team in the North American league. But after a big win this weekend, they now have a claim to be the best team in the world.
All this past weekend – from Thursday, July 26 to Sunday, July 29 – the North Carolina Courage competed against three of the top women’s soccer teams in Europe in the International Champions Cup Women’s Tournament. The tournament took place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens in Miami, Florida, which was hot and humid during these Summer games. On Sunday, the Courage were in the finals and took on the clearest threat in the tournament: Olympique Lyonnais Féminin. For context, Olympique Lyonnais Féminin are the five-time UEFA Women’s Champion League champions, won the league championship last year and have won the French Ligue 1 season for the past 11 years straight.
In classic Courage fashion, they put numbers on the board fast and early. Lynn Williams intercepted the ball from Lyon’s Saki Kumagai and took it down the left line. Then Williams passed to Heather O’Reilly who shot it right at the opponent’s goal and under goalkeeper Lisa Weiß. Not only did this give the Courage a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute but it was O’Reilly’s first-ever goal as a Courage player.
With such an early goal, the story of the match was set: would Olympique Lyonnais Féminin be able to come back, with almost the entire game to do so? As an internationally-acclaimed team, the French competitors fought hard to make that happen. In the 38th minute, Lyon nearly got their first goal as they got a head-to-head against Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, but D’Angelo was able to block Shanice van de Sanden’s shot.
The heat turned up even more in the second half as Lyon made three big attempts on the goal, and again all were blocked. In fact, Lyon controlled possession for most of the second half but the Courage’s defense kept that 1-0 score until the end, giving the Courage the tournament’s first ever win.
The Courage also beat Paris Saint-Germain in the first ever ICC Women’s Tournament, another of the top French women’s professional teams. With these wins, as well as the Courage’s current position as the NWSL leaders and last year’s NWSL season winners (though they lost the championship to rivals the Portland Thorns), Cary’s home team appears to be the best women’s club soccer team in the world.
However, this will be further tested as the ICC’s organizers say next year will include more teams as well as more NWSL teams who are more accustomed to the Courage’s style and its individual players.
This finals match-up against Olympique Lyonnais Féminin is also notable for being the team’s first 4-1 4-1 formation with a lone forward since the team became the Courage in 2017. Given its success against a team that has been compared to Real Madrid, fans may be seeing it more often.
The Courage return to Sahlen’s Stadium in WakeMed Soccer Park this Sunday, August 5, 2018 at 6 PM to take on rivals the Portland Thorns.
Story by staff reports. Photos courtesy of the North Carolina Courage.