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.