North Carolina Courage pummels Portland to take command in NWSL Shield race

The race for the 2019 NWSL Shield has taken a sharp turn.

In less than a week, the defending champion North Carolina Courage has made up a five-point gap on the Portland Thorns and taken the lead.

It's just one point, but North Carolina will be almost impossible to catch after a 6-0 win at Portland. With two games in hand and a closing schedule that includes just one game (out of five) against a team with a winning record. the Courage should cruise to its second straight Shield title.

Lynn Williams led the Courage with her second career hat trick, and Brazilian Debinha had the first goal and added three assists in the game that was 3-0 in favor of the visitors after only 24 minutes.

The margin of victory was the biggest in the Courage's history and the defeat was the worst the Thorns have ever suffered.

“[North Carolina Courage] were very, very good," said Portland coach Mark Parsons. "Outstanding performance from them. Probably the best that they might’ve played against a top team. Maybe one of the strongest performances we’ve seen in the league for a long time against a top team. On the other side of our form and our performance, we were probably at our worst.”

Parsons took the blame for the pummeling.

"It starts and ends with me," he said, "tactical, game prep, physical, mental, emotional, it was probably down there at the very, very worst. It would be easy to say sluggish on the physical side. We were just way behind everywhere. In all areas, we were way off."

NWSL Standings:
1. NC Courage, 37 points (19).
Schedule:  Sept. 14 Orlando, Sept. 17 Houston, Sept. 21 at Utah, Sept. 28 at Washington, Oct. 12 Sky Blue FC.

2. Portland, 36 points (21).
Schedule: Sept. 21 Houston, Sept. 29 at Reign FC, Oct. 12 Washington.

3.
Chicago
, 35 points (21)
Schedule: Sept. 15 Sky Blue FC, Sept. 21 Washington, Sept. 28 Utah.

4.
Utah
, 31 points (19)
Schedule: Sept. 13 at Houston, Sept. 18 at Reign FC, Sept. 21 NC Courage, Sept. 28 at Chicago, Oct. 12 Houston.

5.
Reign FC
, 30 points (19)
Schedule: Sept. 14 at Washington, Sept. 18 Utah, Sept. 21 Sky Blue FC, Sept. 29 Portland, Oct. 12 at Orlando.

6.
Washington
, 25 points (18)
Schedule: Sept. 14 Reign FC, Sept. 21 at Chicago, Sept. 25 at Houston, Sept. 28 NC Courage, Oct. 5 at Orlando, Oct. 12 at Portland.

7.
Houston
, 22 points (19)
Schedule: Sept. 13 Utah, Sept. 17 at NC Courage, Sept. 21 at Portland, Sept. 25 Washington, Oct. 12 at Utah.

8.
Sky Blue FC
, 16 points (20)
Schedule: Sept. 15 Chicago, Sept. 21 at Reign FC, Sept. 29 Orlando, Oct. 12 at NC Courage.

9.
Orlando
, 14 points (20)
Schedule: Sept. 14 at NC Courage, Sept. 29 at Sky Blue FC, Oct. 5 Washington, Oct. 12 Reign FC.
Note: In parentheses are games played.

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