The best action of the entire International Champions Cup showcase happened last night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. In a double-header showcasing the best women’s talent in soccer PSG, Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais, and the North Carolina Courage put on a display second to none. In a third-place match that had numerous goals, to a final that produced amazing displays of tactical abilities no other set of matches have come close.
The evening started with a third-place match between PSG and Manchester City. The ladies of both clubs had met in a warm-up friendly just days before. The familiarity with the clubs would be forgotten quickly as the game started with a bang. In the first minute of the match, PSG forward Melike Pekel, found a loose ball in the six yard box and banged it home to give PSG the early lead.
Despite the quick start, the match would be bogged down by the extreme humidity causing both sides to be rather sluggish. PSG dominated the game early on despite the conditions and were denied a two-goal lead after an amazing save by City’s Karen Bardsley. The tempo would pick up around the 30th minute as City tried to spring to life earning multiple corners.
In the 41st minute, City would strike back. After earning a corner, Caroline Weir delivered an out-swinger from the flag that found Jill Scott at the heart of the penalty area. Although marked well, her header got past the outstretched PSG keeper Christiane Endler to bring the game level.
In the final moments of the first half, Caroline Weir would be the playmaker again. This time Weir played in a beautiful cross from a free kick from about 30 yards. The curling effort would be headed home by defender Mie Jans giving City the lead at the half.
The second half would find City on the offensive early on. In the 59th minute, the match was almost blown open but PSG’s keeper denied City’s Nikita Parris on a breakaway. PSG had a flurry of chances throughout the rest of the match but could not find their way to the back of the net. PSG will surely be disappointed as the side has two leads in this tournament and came away with nothing to show for it.
In the second match of the double header five-time UEFA Champions League winner Olympique Lyonnais took on the reigning NWSL Shield and league leading North Carolina Courage. Despite having numerous players away on international duty the North Carolina Courage put on quite a show of team soccer for 90 minutes.
Much like in the first contest, the opening goal would come early from a household name. Heather O’ Reilly, former US international, would beat the Lyon keeper Lisa Weiss through the 5-hole after a beautiful cross from Lynn Williams. In the 22nd minute Lyon, would try to strike back as Carolin Simon fired a rocket that forced Sabrina D’Angelo to make a wonderful save for the Courage.
Heartbreak would happen moments later as Courage defender Yuri Kawamura would hit the ground writhing in pain. Initially, a rolled ankle seemed to be the culprit on a non-contact injury. Replays showed her left knee bend inward after planting for a lateral cut. Kawamura would be stretchered off the field, holding the same knee that was surgically repaired just last year.
Cari Roccaro entered the match and picked right up where Kawamura left off. Lyon had a few chances through the remainder of the half but Courage’s defense kept their efforts pedestrian for D’Angelo. Lyon’s effort would only continue to grow through the early part of the second half. Earning multiple corners and having various shots on target, D’Angelo stood firm for North Carolina. Lyon’s best chance came in the 74th minute, as a second header was cleared off the line after Lyon had an empty net to place the ball into.
The North Carolina Courage saw the match out and were rewarded as the first ever Women’s International Champions Cup winner. The tournament showed the unique level as to which the NWSL competes. Olympique Lyonnais manager, Reynald Pedros, stated in the post game commentary that the Courage play a more physical game than his squad is typically used to. North Carolina manager, Paul Riley, shared his excitement at winning the cup despite being down multiple players to international call ups. See both managers press conferences in full below.