North Carolina Hosts Chicago in Portland for 2018 NWSL Semifinals

Chicago Red Stars at North Carolina Courage
Providence Park; Portland, OR
Tuesday, September 18, 8:00 p.m. CT
Broadcast: ESPNews

Match Preview
CHICAGO- For the second-consecutive year the Chicago Red Stars will travel to Portland to take on the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) semifinals.

After their 5-0 win more than a week ago against Sky Blue FC, Chicago fell to Utah 2-1 in the regular season finale at the Rio Tinto Stadium. Despite a first half goal from Sam Kerr, the Red Stars suffered defeat after scoring the first goal of the game for the first time this season. Amy Rodriguez and Katie Stengel were the goal scorers for the Royals.

Clinching the NWSL Shield for the second straight year, the Courage ended the regular season with a 5-0 victory over the Houston Dash. Jessica McDonald scored the opening goal in the 13th minute followed by goals from Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams to give North Carolina a 3-0 lead at halftime. In the second half Williams added a second goal before Kristen Hamilton’s 70th minute goal sealed the victory for the Courage.

Williams has been the top striker for North Carolina throughout the entire season. Thanks to her brace last Saturday she finished above Portland’s Lindsey Horan to earn the runner-up spot in the NWSL Golden Boot Race with 14 goals. Williams also has five assists in 2018. However, the top assist provider on the Courage is McDonald who co-leads the league in assists with eight on the year.

The Red Stars also feature their own one-two punch at the top of the stats sheet. Kerr earned the NWSL Golden Boot for the second straight year, with her goal at Utah propelling her to the top with 16. Nagasato falls only one behind McDonald, providing seven assists in 2018. However Nagasato has 533 successful passes this season compared to McDonald’s 267. The former Japan international also had a 74.2% passing rate success, above the 62.4% conversion rate of McDonald.

This will be the fourth meeting this year between the two teams. On May 6th Kerr scored her first goal in a Red Stars uniform and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saved 12 shots, but the Courage were able to find an equalizer in the 82nd minute thanks to McCall Zerboni. On Independence Day it was the Courage who were victorious 4-1 over Chicago in North Carolina. Nagasato was the lone goal scorer for the Red Stars after she successfully converted a penalty kick in the 93rd minute. In their most recent matchup on August 10, the Courage once again got the early lead from a Debinha goal, but Kerr’s second half equalizer salvaged a point for Chicago.

This game is a rematch form last year’s NWSL Semifinals. Hosted at North Carolina as well, a 90th minute Courage goal sunk the Red Stars and pushed the Courage through to the NWSL Championship, where they lost to the Portland Thorns.

2018 Series History
May 6th – draw @ North Carolina 1-1 (Kerr ‘37 / Zerboni ‘82)
July 4th – loss @ North Carolina 4-1 ( Dunn ‘20 / Williams ‘67 / Debinha ‘69 / Hamilton ‘87 / Nagasato ‘93)
August 10 – draw @ Home 1-1 ( Debinha ‘21 / Kerr ‘64)

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