Miami, Florida — The North Carolina Courage just keep on winning.
They already have 14 wins in the NWSL this season and they got another big victory on Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium — this time over a side from Europe, as they beat Paris-Saint Germain 2-1 in the first semifinal of the inaugural Women’s International Champions Cup. The Courage will next face five-time UEFA Champions League winner Olympique Lyonnais in the ICC final on Sunday, July 29, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“I’m ecstatic,” Jenkins said after the game. “We train this stuff a lot at practice. I just kept running and I knew I was going to sit in between the defenders. [Assistant coach Sean Nahas] told me to sit in between the defenders and Lynn [Williams] played the perfect ball.”
On to the final! ?
— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) July 27, 2018
“We’re sitting here creating history, which is something that people don’t always have the opportunity to do,” McDonald, who scored the opening goal in the 19th minute, said. “And to top that off we have these fresh players coming in who train with us day in and day out.”
Jenkins has come off the bench for the Courage in 13 NWSL games this season. The Courage picked Jenkins with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, but she missed last season because of injury. Her goal on Thursday night — her first in a meaningful game for the Courage — helped her team punch a ticket to the ICC championship game on Sunday.
Head coach Paul Riley recognized the importance of getting players like Jenkins minutes in a tournament like this, especially with six players on international duty for the Tournament of Nations, (Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Merritt Mathias, Samantha Mewis and McCall Zerboni, all representing the United States, and Debinha, for Brazil.)
“Darian, it’s a tough job for her because she’s behind Jess, Lynn, Dunn, who’s obviously away with the national team,” Riley said after the game.
When Jenkins came into the game in the 75th minute, she was clearly up for the test. The score was level at 1-1 and if it stayed tied after 90 minutes, the game would go straight to penalty kicks.
Jenkins’ winner came after 44 minutes locked at 1-1. After the Courage took an early lead, Paris-Saint Germain tied it in the 40th minute when 17-year-old Canadian forward Jordyn Huitema put pressure on the Courage backline. Courage defender Kaleigh Kurtz attempted to clear the ball, but it ended up on the other side of the post to give PSG the equalizer. (Huitema is joining PSG for the tournament, but hasn’t signed a contract and still maintains her college eligibility.)
With the score tied, the second half was a scramble, and neither side could find much of an offensive rhythm. The Courage made several substitutions hoping for a burst of energy in the Miami heat — including Jenkins, who tallied the game-winner just nine minutes after she entered.
“The team energy and chemistry is always there. We’re always working for each other so I knew [a goal] was going to come,” Jenkins said.
Riley called Jenkins’ goal “brilliant” and said, “I thought it was important to play them, blood ’em,” when asked about his decision to play some of his new, younger players.
— NWSL (@NWSL) July 27, 2018
With the international call-ups, the Courage signed four national team replacement players including Morgan Reid, a defender out of Duke University who the Courage selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Reid was one of the recent signings who made her professional debut on the night, entering the game in the 82nd minute and replacing defender Jaelene Hinkle.
“Morgan Reid had that look in her eye that she was going to kill somebody when she was brought on the park,” Riley said. “I think she did really well, equipped herself at left back.”
“I’ve been waiting for awhile for this!” Reid said after the game. “It was so exciting. It was obviously only 15 minutes, but it has been something I’ve been waiting to do my whole life.”
The win for Reid and the other younger players was particularly special, and if anyone gets the significance of this moment it’s NWSL veteran forward, McDonald.
“Their names are also going to be in the history book with ours,” McDonald said.
Next up: the final vs. Lyon on Sunday night.
Olympique Lyonnais earned a 3-0 result over Manchester City on Thursday night with a brace from Eugénie Le Sommer and a goal from Ada Hegerberg. The North Carolina Courage will face Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday, July 29 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and the third place game between Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City will take place before at 6:15 p.m. ET on NWSLsoccer.com and the NWSL app.