Paul Riley voted NWSL Coach of the Year

The Courage won the NWSL Shield with a 16-7-1 record in the regular season

Courage coach Paul Riley talks with North Carolina players after a game. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

After a record-setting season for the Courage, North Carolina coach Paul Riley has been named the NWSL Coach of the Year. The award was voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans.

 

The Courage went 16-7-1 in 2017, tying the 2014 Seattle Reign for the most wins in a single season. They also set a league record with 12 shutouts (five on the road) and finished as the second-best defense in the league, conceding just 22 goals.

 

North Carolina beat Chicago in the semifinals before falling to Portland in the NWSL Championship 1-0 on Saturday.

 

It’s the fourth straight NWSL season that the coach of the Shield winners has been named Coach of the Year.

 

Despite being in first place for most of the season (147 of 169 days), Riley and the team played with what they called a “junkyard dog” mentality — a scrappy, “underdog” mentality. It worked to the tune of seven 1-0 wins in the regular season (an NWSL record).

 

In those seven games, five of the goals came in the first half and the other two came as game-winners in the 81st minute or later. Six different goal scorers had the only goal in those games: McCall Zerboni, Debinha, Jessica McDonald, Ashley Hatch, Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton. Only Williams scored twice in those close games.

Riley also navigated through a summer of injuries to North Carolina’s two top offensive threats: Williams and McDonald. Hatch started her first game in place of McDonald on June 3 and scored her first pro goal. The next game for the Courage came on June 17 and was without Williams and McDonald. Hatch started alongside Hamilton, making the first start of her NWSL career in her fourth year in the league. She scored a brace in the first 13 minutes of the game — the first two goals of her professional career. Hatch also scored in the match.

Riley and many of the same players won the title last year as the Western New York Flash, but relocated to North Carolina in January as a new franchise with new ownership.

 

Riley joins Vlatko Adonovski, Laura Harvey (twice) and Mark Parsons as the only coaches to win NWSL Coach of the Year.