CARY — Debinha scored in the fourth minute and the North Carolina Courage went on to beat the Chicago Red Stars 4-0 on Sunday for their second straight National Women’s Soccer League title.
Jessica McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Sam Mewis added goals for the Courage, which won the NWSL Shield for the third straight year with a league-best 15-5-4 regular-season record. The Courage beat Reign FC 4-1 in extra time in the semifinals.
The Red Stars had a six-game winning streak heading into the final, including a 1-0 victory over the Portland Thorns in the semifinal.
Debinha’s rebound shot got past Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to open scoring early before McDonald’s header off a feed from Lynn Williams in the 26th minute. After Dunn scored in first-half stoppage time, Mewis added a goal off a long ball from Abby Dahlkemper in the 61st.
North Carolina’s four goals were the most in an NWSL title match.
It was the third time the Courage and Red Stars had met in the playoffs. The Courage also won the first two and did not give up any goals.
Debinha was named the game’s MVP, the first Brazilian to win it.
The game capped an eventful week for the league.
Chicago’s Sam Kerr was named the league’s Most Valuable Player for this season after scoring a record 18 goals in just 21 games. The Australian forward was absent for part of the season because of the Women’s World Cup.
It was Kerr’s second league MVP award, she also won in 2017 while with Sky Blue.
“Eighteen goals doesn’t just come from one player so thank you to my teammates. I love playing for Chicago,” Kerr said. “I love the girls, I love the team, and they allow me to be the best player I can be.”
The Reign’s Vlatko Andonovski was named the league’s Coach of the Year after leading the Reign to the playoffs after a spate of injuries and the World Cup absences of several key players, including U.S. star Megan Rapinoe.
Andonovski is expected to be named the new coach of the U.S. national team at a news conference on Monday in New York. He replaces Jill Ellis, who led the United States to back-to-back World Cup titles.
The league this week also announced an expansion team in Louisville, Kentucky, to start play in 2021, as rumors swirled about additional expansion in the nine-team NWSL for next season.
Sunday’s game was the last for Courage midfielder Heather O’Reilly. The former national team star is retiring from pro soccer and joining the staff of the women’s team at North Carolina.
O’Reilly retired from the national team back in 2016, finishing with 231 caps and 47 goals, along with the 2015 World Cup trophy and three Olympic gold medals. She’s also got an FA Cup from her time with Arsenal and two College Cup trophies from her time at North Carolina.
A sellout crowd of 10,227 attended the championship at Sahlen’s Stadium.