In a rematch of last year’s Women’s International Champions Cup final, the North Carolina Courage fell to Olympique Lyonnais1-0, falling short of its goal to repeat as champions and potentially lay claim to the title of best women’s club soccer team in the world.
In front of a rowdy crowd of over 8,000 fans, missed chances doomed the Courage all game long, as the home team couldn’t find the back of the net on any of its 14 shots, consistently missing good opportunities.
“We’re obviously disappointed we didn’t get the win,” forward Crystal Dunn said. “We had some chances, we didn’t put them away.”
Courage right back Merritt Mathias earned the first good chance of the match in the 15th minute, taking a touch on a pass from forward Lynn Williams on the right side of the box and sending a shot towards the near post but Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi blocked it away.
After a clean through ball from Williams in the 21st minute, Dunn found herself all alone in the top right corner of the box for a shot but she mishit the ball and it sailed harmlessly wide right of the goal.
Lyon closed the first half with a flurry on goal as left back Amel Majri ripped a shot on goal from just outside the box that hit the crossbar and bounced straight down where the Courage cleared it away to preserve a 0-0 deadlock going into halftime.
The French Ligue 1 champions drew first blood in the 56th minute when forward Dzsenifer Marozsan struck a beautiful ball from about 25 yards out, curling it around Courage goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe and into the goal to give Lyon a 1-0 lead.
“It took a goal, a worldly goal, to win the game,” Courage coach Paul Riley said. “[Lyon is] a terrific team, deserving champions.”
Semifinal hero Jessica McDonald, who scored the game-winning goal against Manchester City, almost answered back for the Courage in the 66th minute as she curled a sharp left-footed shot towards the upper right corner of the goal but missed wide right by no more than a foot.
Following a script of missed opportunities, the Courage found itself in another good position to tie the game up in the 82nd minute. After a strong cross by McDonald, Debinha took a touch and sent a shot towards the lower left side of the goal but Bouhaddi dove to her right and saved it to keep Lyon’s lead safe.
The United States’ finest women’s club soccer team couldn’t muster a comeback, and after a hard-fought 90-plus minutes, Olympique Lyonnais was crowned the Women’s International Champions Cup champions.
“I thought it was a brilliant game,” Riley said. “I felt tonight like the two best teams in the world were playing against each other.”
The Courage returns to NWSL action on Saturday, Aug. 24, when it takes on the Seattle Reign back at home at Sahlen’s Stadium at 7 p.m.