CARY, N.C. – Opening the 2018 NWSL regular season, Portland Thorns FC fell 1-0 to the North Carolina Courage in front of 4,210 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday afternoon. Midfielder Debinha notched the game-winning goal in the 70th minute for North Carolina.
Thorns FC debuts
Midfielder Midge Purce and forward Ifeoma Onumonu made their Thorns FC debuts in the match. Defender Kelli Hubly earned her first career professional start. Additionally, defender Elizabeth Ball made her professional debut in the match, logging 12 minutes as a second-half substitute. Purce and Hubly played all 90 minutes, while Onumonu logged 61 minutes.
Thorns FC were without the services of a number of key players in the opener as a result of injury or international duty, including defender Emily Menges, midfielder Tobin Heath and forward Hayley Raso in addition to newly-acquired Australian internationals Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter, and Brazilian international Andressinha.
NWSL season openers
The 1-0 result against the Courage marked the first time Thorns FC have fallen in a season opener since the first season of the NWSL in 2013. Entering Saturday’s fixture, Thorns FC were unbeaten in five straight (4-0-1) season-opening matches.
Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made a critical stop near the end of the opening 45 minutes to keep the match scoreless. Diving to her right, Franch reacted to quickly to parry away a diving header from point-blank range at the left post from North Carolina forward Jessica McDonald in the 37th minute.
Portland had a chance early in the second half. Forward Mallory Weber created a turnover just outside the Courage box in the 49th minute. Dribbling down the left side, Weber cut back towards the middle and fired a curling shot that went wide of the right post.
On the counter-attack, North Carolina opened the scoring in the 70th minute. Receiving a pass near the edge of the box from midfielder Denise O’Sullivan, Debinha delivered a powerful strike into the top, right corner of the goal.
Looking for a late equalizer, Purce looked to dribble around North Carolina goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo in one-on-one situation. D’Angelo came off her line quickly trying to knock the ball away, sliding through Purce inside the box, but was not whistled for the foul.
- Defender Kelli Hubly earned her first professional start in the match.
- Midfielder Midge Purce and forward Ifeoma Onumonu made their regular-season debuts for Thorns FC.
- Defender Elizabeth Ball made her professional debut, entering the match as a second-half substitute.
- Saturday’s match marked the fourth meeting all-time, including playoffs, between Portland and North Carolina. All four meetings have finished with a 1-0 score line. Thorns FC are 2-2-0 in those four meetings.
Next up, Thorns FC travel to face the Chicago Red Stars in the second of back-to-back road matches on Saturday, March 31, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.; kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. (Pacific) with a live web stream available at www.go90.com.
Portland Thorns FC (0-1-0, 0pts) vs. North Carolina Courage (1-0-0, 3pts)
March 24, 2018 – Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, N.C.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Portland Thorns FC 0 0 0
North Carolina Courage 0 1 1
NCC: Debinha (O’Sullivan), 70
POR: Sonnett (caution), 33
POR: Horan (caution), 35
NCC: Hinkle (caution), 51
POR: GK Franch, D Reynolds, D Hubly, D Sonnett, D Klingenberg, M Purce, M Horan, M Boureille, F Weber (Ball, 78), F Sinclair ©, F Onumonu (Lussi, 61)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Eckerstrom, M Salem, F Morris
TOTAL SHOTS: 3 (Three players tied, 1); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Sinclair, 1); FOULS: 14 (Klingenberg, 3); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 1; SAVES: 3
NCC: GK D’Angelo, D Mathias, D Dahlkemper, D Erceg ©, D Hinkle, M Dunn, M Zerboni, M O’Sullivan (Hamilton, 78) , M Debinha (Speck, 90+1), F McDonald (Jenkins, 67), F Williams
Substitutes Not Used: GK Rowland, D Chapman, F Crouse, D Kurtz
TOTAL SHOTS: 20 (Williams, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Four players tied, 1); FOULS: 11 (Zerboni, 3); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 12; SAVES: 1
Referee: Ramy Touchan
Assistant Referees: Benjamin Wooten, Maggie Short
4th Official: Aaron Gallagher
Weather: Rainy, 49 degrees
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial