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OCT 27
3:30 PM ET
ESPN
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Courage remain unbeaten, top Thorns 4-1
Lynn Williams scored twice in the win as North Carolina made it 11 games unbeaten
Courage midfielder Sam Mewis scored in North Carolina's 4-1 win over Portland. (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)
Courage midfielder Sam Mewis scored in North Carolina's 4-1 win over Portland. (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)

The North Carolina Courage improved to 9-0-2 (29 points) on the season with a 4-1 win over Portland Thorns FC on Wednesday night, in front of a crowd of 15,018 fans at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.

The 11-game unbeaten streak to start the season is third all-time in NWSL, behind the 2014 Reign (13-0-3 in a 16-game unbeaten run) and the 2016 Thorns (7-0-5 in 12 games).

Courage forward Lynn Williams returned from injury to score twice in the win. North Carolina also got goals from Debinha and Sam Mewis.

With the loss, the Thorns fell to 4-4-3 (15 points). It’s Portland’s third home loss, after losing just once at home in each of the past two seasons.

Williams put the Thorns on the board in the 31st minute with a penalty kick goal. The Courage earned the penalty after Thorns defender Katherine Reynolds was called for a foul in the box on Debinha.

 

The match went into halftime up 1-0, but in the second half it was all Courage as they scored three goals in six minutes to put the game out of reach.

First, Debinha headed home a cross from Crystal Dunn in the 58th minute for her third goal of the year. A give-and-go between Dunn and Jess McDonald sprung Dunn into space on the right wing and she found Debinha open at the back post to make it 2-0. It’s Dunn’s third assist of the season, pulling her into an eight-player tie for the league lead.

 

Then in the 62nd minute, Williams scored her second of the game and third of the season. After a McDonald long throw-in found Mewis in the center of the penalty box, Mewis spun and headed it to Williams for a left-footed volley to make it 3-0. It’s Mewis’ first assist of the year.

Two minutes later, Mewis found one of her own. A North Carolina corner kick taken by Jaelene Hinkle was headed down by McDonald. McCall Zerboni flicked it on with her head and into the path of Mewis, who rose up to head it in for the fourth goal of the game. It’s the third goal of the season for Mewis and Zerboni’s first assist of 2018.

 

The Thorns broke the shutout in the 89th minute when Reynolds, appearing in her 100th career NWSL game, scored her first career goal.

The past four meetings between the two teams, including the 2017 NWSL Championship, all ended 1-0. But that was not the case on Wednesday evening in Portland. The two teams kicked off the 2018 NWSL season in North Carolina, a game that the Courage won on a goal from Debinha.

Similar to last year’s championship game, it was a physical battle between both sides right from the start with Zerboni fouling Tobin Heath in the second minute. Each team earned two yellow cards in the game — Meghan Klingenberg (for dissent) and Christine Sinclair for the Thorns and Merritt Mathias and Kristen Hamilton for the Courage.

Williams had missed the three previous games with a right hamstring strain. She played 66 minutes in her return on Wednesday night.

Portland held the better of possession (55.5% to 44.5%) but the Courage took more total shots (17-9) and shots on goal (8-5).

The Thorns get a bye this weekend and then the FIFA break after that, so they will next be in action on June 16 on the road vs. the Red Stars.

The Courage will next take on the Dash in Houston on Sunday evening and put their unbeaten streak on the line without several of their key players. Zerboni, Mewis, Dunn, Mathias and Abby Dahlkemper were all called into U.S. women’s national team training camp and will miss this weekend’s game. They’ll also be without Denise O’Sullivan, who is on international duty for Ireland.

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