NWSL Final: Courage finds itself in even better place for rematch of epic 2016 game with Thorns

A year after they met in an epic NWSL semifinal, the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns will meet in Saturday's NWSL final in Orlando.

The Courage, then playing as the Western New York Flash, upset the Shield winners in Portland, 4-3, and went on to win the NWSL championship.

'Heartbreaker.' The 2016 semifinal drew an NWSL record playoff crowd of 20,086 fans expecting to see a Portland victory, but the Flash won in overtime.

"The thing that hurt me the most," says Thorns coach Mark Parsons, "was just seeing the players, players crying on the field, senior players that have been at World Cups and Olympics crying on the field in front of their fans. It was a heartbreaker."

Then-Flash coach Paul Riley was ejected in the semifinal and missed the victory over the Washington Spirit in the final. The Flash was the youngest team in the league, and the only NWSL team not represented on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.

A year later, the Courage is loaded with U.S. national team regulars:

-- Samantha Mewis is up for the NWSL's MVP award.
Abby Dahlkemper is a finalist for Defender of the Year.
-- Lynn Williams, the Flash's 2016 playoff star, is a forward n the national team.
-- Outside back Taylor Smith has broken into the national team this year.

'In a better place.'  North Carolina is not only the defending champion, but it enters Saturday's final as the 2017 Shield winner.

"This year," Riley said, "I think we're in a better place than we were, a little bit healthier that we were last year."

Portland welcomed back national team veteran Tobin Heath for the last two games and the 4-1 semifinal win over Orlando after she missed the rest of the season while recovering from a back injury.

"She’s ready for more," said Parsons after the semifinal win, "and we’re excited for her to train more next week.”

Such is the Thorns' depth that Parsons did not start U.S. midfielder Allie Long or Danish forward Nadia Nadim in the 4-1 win over Orlando in the semifinals.

1 comment about "NWSL Final: Courage finds itself in even better place for rematch of epic 2016 game with Thorns".
  1. Andrew Kear, October 14, 2017 at 6:10 p.m.

    USMNT are part of the new snowflake generation that can't that adapt to the real world. They live in the alternative reality of X-box games and political correctness.

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