The North Carolina Courage showed why it's the greatest team in the history of U.S. women's pro history when it crushed the Chicago Red Stars, 4-0, in the 2019 NWSL final in front of a record crowd of
10,227 fans in Cary, North Carolina.
The game was never in doubt
as Brazilian Debinha, the game's MVP, scored in the fourth minute, and U.S. internationals Jessica McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Samantha Mewis followed with goals.
The Courage became the first team to win back-to-back doubles -- regular-season and playoff championships -- in NWSL history and the first team to win a league championship on its home turf.
The Courage's 2019 Shield title was its third in three years since moving from Western New York after the 2016 NWSL season.
In many ways, the 2019 season was the Courage's
toughest, interrupted by the Women's World Cup, where seven players spent part of the summer. A four-game winless streak in May followed the departure of the four U.S. World Cup players -- Abby
Dahlkemper, Dunn, Mewis and McDonald -- to training camp.
But once head coach Paul Riley got everyone back from France, the Courage was almost unstoppable, winning nine of its
last 10 games and scoring 31 goals.
The turning point was a trip on Sept. 11 to Portland. The Courage defeated the Thorns, 6-0, to take over first place and cruised to the regular-season
championship. Afterwards, Portland coach Mark Parsons termed the performance one of the best he's seen in the history of the league.
In the last two seasons, the Courage has never
let the foot off the pedal. Not once has it gone winless in back-to-back games when Riley's U.S. internationals were available.
North Carolina made it look easy on Sunday, but it wasn't
up against just an ordinary opponent. The Red Stars had beaten the Courage twice and tied it in the third meeting in 2019.
All the Courage did was put four goals past Alyssa
Naeher, the starting U.S. World Cup keeper, and shut out Sam Kerr, winner of three straight NWSL scoring titles.
Sunday's game was the most lopsided U.S. women's pro final
since FC Gold Pride with Marta, Christine Sinclair and Tiffeny Milbrett in attack beat Riley's Philadelphia Independence, 4-0, to win the 2010 WPS title.
Pride never got a chance to repeat. It folded after the 2010 season.