Heather O'Reilly celebrates in style with goal in another North Carolina rout

Heather O’Reilly scored her first NWSL goal for the North Carolina Courage in a 6-1 win over last-place Orlando that drew a record-breaking regular-season crowd of 9,563 fans who came out to honor the retiring O'Reilly.

Courage opened up a four-point lead in the race for the NWSL Shield with its second six-goal game in four days. It won, 6-0, at Portland on Wednesday to take the league lead over the Thorns.

O’Reilly, 34, started her first game of the season for the Courage and recorded her first goal in an NWSL match with the Courage with a shot from the edge of the area in the 85th minute.

In 2018, she returned to the NWSL from Arsenal, where she spent parts of two seasons. She played two seasons each for Boston and FC Kansas City in the NWSL after spending three years with Sky Blue FC in WPS.

“I was obviously looking to impact the match," she said, "and later on in the game [Courage coach] Paul Riley pushed me forward into an attacking midfield position to get some more opportunities. I cut in off the right and just bent it with power.”

The Courage also got goals from Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald, McKenzie Meehan and Debinha. The sixth goal was an own goal.

"This is about HAO tonight," said Riley. "I had a feeling it was going to be a good night. And, I think they [the team] did it for Heather and it doesn’t matter who’s playing right now it doesn’t matter who’s on the bench, doesn’t matter who’s up in the stands. The team all comes to play, they all want to get on the field and they are in a good rhythm at the moment and we played some great football tonight."

Washington-Reign FC. Perhaps even more impressive than the Washington Spirit's record crowd of 19,871 fans for its first NWSL game of the year at Audi Field three weeks ago was the crowd of 17,418, the second-largest in Spirit history, for Saturday's match with Reign FC.

The Spirit came close to treating the crowd with a dramatic victory when Chloe Logarzo scored in the 90th minute to put the home team ahead in the 90th minute.

But Reign FC earned a 2-2 tie when Ifeoma Onumonu scored in the second minute of stoppage time.

A win would have moved Washington to within three points of fourth-place Utah and two behind Reign FC with a match in hand on both teams. Instead, the Spirit is five points behind the two teams with just five games to play.

Reign FC and Utah will meet with fourth place at stake on Wednesday night at Cheney Stadium. The winner will take a three-point lead in the battle for the fourth and final playoff berth and claim the first tiebreaker (head-to-head series).

NWSL Standings:
1. NC Courage, 40 points (20)
Schedule: 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.

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

, 31 points (20)
Schedule: Sept. 18 at Reign FC, Sept. 21 NC Courage, Sept. 28 at Chicago, Oct. 12 Houston.

Reign FC
, 31 points (20)
Schedule: Sept. 18 Utah, Sept. 21 Sky Blue FC, Sept. 29 Portland, Oct. 12 at Orlando.

, 26 points (19)
Schedule: Sept. 21 at Chicago, Sept. 25 at Houston, Sept. 28 NC Courage, Oct. 5 at Orlando, Oct. 12 at Portland.

, 25 points (20)
Schedule: Sept. 17 at NC Courage, Sept. 21 at Portland, Sept. 25 Washington, Oct. 12 at Utah.

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

, 14 points (21)
Schedule: Sept. 29 at Sky Blue FC, Oct. 5 Washington, Oct. 12 Reign FC.
Note: In parentheses are games played.

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