The 2019 NWSL Championship is here, and everyone involved with the league hopes for a final befitting of a season that has seen major growth. The North Carolina Courage are back here once again, after yet another NWSL Shield-winning season, and their reward for another stellar season is a home final against the Chicago Red Stars. Despite the longest active streak of qualifying for the playoffs (five years), the Red Stars are finally appearing in their first-ever NWSL final.
Location: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, NC)
Kickoff time: 3:30pm Eastern
Previous meetings: Unlike everyone else in the league, Chicago has actually had a good handle on how to get the better of this Courage side. The Red Stars opened this season with a 1-1 draw in North Carolina, and have won the two meetings between these clubs since then (both in Chicago).
Part of the recipe: Sam Kerr, who has scored 4 goals (one in each game, plus a stoppage-time clincher during a 3-1 victory in May). However, it has to be said that the Courage really didn’t hit their heights as a team this year until after the World Cup, and they’ve won each of their last 8 home games. They don’t just squeak out 1-0 wins, either: NC’s goal difference in that set of home games is +17 (23 goals for, 6 against).
Paul Riley has his strongest team available, and it’s a final, so...yeah, he’s gonna put that team on the field. Mewis is listed as questionable with a knee injury, but all signs from training yesterday point to her being good to go.
Projected Red Stars starting 11: (4231) - Alyssa Naeher; Sarah Gorden, Julie Ertz, Katie Naughton, Casey Short; Danny Colaprico, Morgan Brian; Savannah McCaskill, Vanessa DiBernardo, Yuki Nagasato; Sam Kerr
On the other hand, Rory Dames was dealt a major blow when Tierna Davidson hurt her ankle earlier this week, ruling her out today. Dames had said that he was at least considering moving Ertz into the midfield, and there were whispers of a possible formation change, but without Davidson that’s probably off the table.
Naughton will come in at center back as Davidson’s replacement as a result. At yesterday’s press conference, Dames said he has been preparing her for a little while now to expect to start this game, but it’s still a huge test.
Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
Available TV: ESPN
Available streaming: WatchESPN
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
we our friends have to say about it?: All for XI has this great piece on Crystal Dunn, who got a lot of her chest after a grueling 2019. For in-depth previews, check out Hot Time in Old Town for the Chicago perspective, and Dirty South Soccer has NC’s side of things.
What are you drinking?: I will be in attendance, so you know what time it is: coffee on the way in (if you’re ever in Cary, check out Brew Coffee Bar), bottled water in the building.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.