O’Reilly, D’Angelo lead the Courage to inaugural ICC championship
The Courage defeat Lyon 1-0 in the ICC Women's Tournament final
Heather O'Reilly scored the eventual game-winner of the Women's ICC tournament final in the tenth minute. (Photo credit: Lewis Gettier/isiphotos.com)
Heather O'Reilly scored the eventual game-winner of the Women's ICC tournament final in the tenth minute. (Photo credit: Lewis Gettier/isiphotos.com)

Miami, Florida — For the first time all season, the North Carolina Courage were the underdogs. On Sunday night at Hard Rock Stadium, the NWSL-leading Courage were up against five-time UEFA Champions Olympique Lyonnais in the International Champions Cup Women’s Tournament final. Thanks to a first-half goal from Courage midfielder Heather O’Reilly and a shutout performance from goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, the Courage squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Lyon and became the first-ever champions of the ICC Women’s Tournament.

“I remember it coming across and I just wanted to make some good contact with it,” O’Reilly said of her goal after the game. “I feel like I made decent contact, but I obviously played it right to the keeper. It had enough on it so it kind went under her, but I was lucky that it crossed the line. But I’ll take it.”

O’Reilly’s game-winning goal came off of a cross from Courage forward Lynn Williams in the tenth minute. This was O’Reilly’s first goal for the Courage, after joining the team in late June.

O’Reilly’s face after she scored said it all: tongue out, arms wide—pure pride. The former Arsenal midfielder not only scored her first goal for the Courage, but did so against a world class team on a historic stage. Yet, if you ask O’Reilly about what scoring meant to her or about what her personal performance meant, she’ll divert all the credit to her team.

“There’s grit involved in [this], there’s fitness, there’s focus and there’s depth.  The players that came off the bench were really impressive and some of them were rookies—Morgan Reid, Ryan Williams—playing in the back, I’m really proud of these girls. Darian [Jenkins] getting us into this game, scoring in the last game,” O’Reilly said.

The Courage came to the ICC without six of their usual starters due to the Tournament of Nations. Abby DahlkemperCrystal DunnMerritt MathiasSamantha Mewis, and McCall Zerboni all were called up to the U.S. women’s national team and Debinha was called in for Brazil.

This tournament gave North Carolina head coach Paul Riley a chance to give minutes to some of the younger and new players, but also try out a new formation. The Courage fielded a 4-1-4-1 against Lyon. This lineup marked the first time the Courage have played with a lone forward since relocating as a club to North Carolina. Defender Ryan Williams earned her first start for the Courage on Sunday night, while defender Morgan Reid earned her first professional appearance in the Courage’s Thursday night semifinal 2-1 victory against Paris Saint-Germain.

“Ryan was a 22-year-old playing against [Eugénie] Le Sommer on that right-hand side,” Riley said after the game. “She [Williams] went up to me after the game and was like ‘Oh, she’s so good!'”

Le Sommer—who scored a brace in Lyon’s semifinal win over Manchester City in their opening match of the tournament—and Lyon are still in preseason but were in good form for the ICC. Lyon started five of their players who were recently named to the FIFA The Best Women’s Player short list: Amandine HenryWendie RenardLucy BronzeAda Hegerberg, and Saki Kumagai.

The Courage had to play a formation that would clog the lanes out and force Lyon to play outside. D’Angelo earned her first start in net since May and picked up a huge clean sheet on the night.

“Sabs is a shot-blocker,” Riley said. “She was more than that tonight, though, she was well-organized and her feet were great tonight.” D’Angelo finished the game with five saves and kept Lyon off the board, despite their 23 shots attempted.

“We knew what we were up against,” D’Angelo said after the game. “Paul came out with a great plan with what we were supposed to do. We were very gritty out there and we were doing everything we had to do to block the shots.”

In the 72nd minute, Lyon had a corner kick opportunity and found Amel Majri wide open at the top of the box. Majri was able to get a strike off in traffic as Courage center back Abby Erceg pressed up towards Majri immediately. Erceg got a foot on Majri’s shot, deflecting it, and D’Angelo followed up making a diving save to keep her side ahead. Lyon finished the game with nine corners to the Courage’s three.

Just a minute later, a collective Courage defensive effort kept Lyon off the board. Le Sommer took a free kick from the left side of the pitch and D’Angelo came off of her line to make the save. The ball escaped D’Angelo and Renard got a piece of it, but her shot went off the post. In a complete scramble in the box, Erceg cleaned it up and made the clearance in traffic.

Lyon held the better of the possession on the night at 70.6% to the Courage’s 29.4%.

“For us to have a clean sheet is something that we are incredibly proud of,” O’Reilly said.

Riley spoke after the game about the pre-game jitters his side felt. But, he said there was one player on his team that brought an overarching calmness to the bus, locker room and pitch.

“[Heather] came in and scored a goal, but even more than that she settled the players in in the locker room before the game. [We] had some anxious faces when I walked in the locker room and a lot of talking going on, ‘Oh we gotta do this, we gotta watch this, we gotta watch that,’ so I think she settled everyone down. She’s been around the block a few times so having her experience was good for us tonight.”

Riley also mentioned that O’Reilly spent a lot of the first half working with Ryan Williams on the right side, talking her through it all.

“I mean seeing Ryan out there,” D’Angelo said, “KK [Kaleigh Kurtz], Yuri [Kawamura] and Caro [Cari Roccarro] and just watching them all move and do their thing—I had full trust in them and you could see that they trusted us as well.”

The European champions had nothing but good things to say about their experience playing against an American club. Lyon defender Lucy Bronze, who played for the North Carolina Tar Heels alongside Courage forward Jess McDonald and defender Merritt Mathias, may have known a bit more about the North Carolina side than some of her teammates, having played in the States.

“Americans just go, go, go,” Bronze said after the game. “They just never give up and I think that’s what got them that goal in the first half.”

Bronze said she follows the NWSL a little bit. “I know they are the top of the league. I know Jess McDonald, HAO [O’Reilly] and some of the coaches as well from when I used to play. Every American team is physical, athletic and they like to press. I think that’s what they were very good at tonight.”

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