2021 Women’s International Champions Cup Recap
by Tim Cary
The 2021 Women’s International Champions Cup, featuring defending champion Olympique Lyonnais, FC Barcelona, Portland Thorns FC, and the Houston Dash, had everything a soccer fan would want in a tournament.
Highlight-reel plays? Check.
International superstars? Check.
Individual standout performances? Check.
Up-and-coming talent? Check.
Penalty shootout? Check.
Late-game heroics? Check.
In case you missed it, or if you just want to re-live the memories, here are some of the very best highlights from this past weekend in Portland.
In the first half of Houston’s semifinal against Portland, Dash forward Rachel Daly saved a certain goal with a ridiculous twisting header off the line. Although goalkeeper Amanda Dennis appeared to be beaten by the shot from Rocky Rodriguez, Daly somehow was able to leap backward in the air and keep the ball out of the net with her head, clearing it out of danger.
Try freeze-framing this clip and then decide for yourself: Is it even possible for the human body to bend that way?!
Only a couple weeks after the Olympic soccer tournament ended, some of the world’s top players competed in the Women’s International Champions Cup. Gold medalist Canada was represented by stars like Portland’s Christine Sinclair and Houston’s Sophie Schmidt, while a handful of USWNT stars such as Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, and Kristie Mewis competed for their NWSL sides for the first time since winning bronze in Tokyo. Catarina Macario, the youngest player on the United States Olympic squad, also came off the bench in the final for Lyon.
Listen to the ovation Sinclair and Dunn received from the home fans when they entered the championship match for Portland.
Although Houston ended up finishing in fourth place after a pair of heartbreaking defeats, Dash striker Shea Groom still put on a show for the crowd in Providence Park and the national TV audience this weekend. Groom scored twice in the first half against Portland and followed that stellar performance up with a third tally in a close loss to FC Barcelona. Groom can finish with her head or either foot, and all of those skills were on full display at the Women’s International Champions Cup.
Watch Groom deftly navigate to her right through the Thorns defense and tuck her first goal of the tournament inside the far post.
If 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie isn’t yet a household name in the soccer world, she’s about to be. Moultrie almost single-handedly rallied Portland from a 2-0 deficit in the final 40 minutes of Wednesday’s semifinal, assisting Natalia Kuikka via corner kick and then scoring her first professional goal off a set piece to level the match. Moultrie, who made headlines by signing an endorsement deal with Nike at the age of 13, wasn’t allowed to play for Portland until last month due to a legal battle over the NWSL’s minimum age, but appears to be making up for lost time. The high-school-age phenom also converted a penalty in the Thorns’ dramatic shootout victory.
Check out the replay of Moultrie’s equalizer; we’ll go out on a limb and say it’s the first of many goals in her pro career.
As mentioned above, the Houston-Portland match went to penalties after the teams finished 90 minutes tied 2-2. Thorns goalkeeper Shelby Hogan, who was appearing in her first-ever professional match (read that again!), didn’t appear to be fazed in the slightest by the high-stakes situation. Hogan calmly stopped three of the four kicks she faced to secure a berth in the championship match for Portland.
Pressure? No. Trio of saves? Yes.
Just when it looked like the Thorns-Olympique Lyonnais final was also heading to a penalty shootout, Morgan Weaver showed up with other ideas. Only minutes after checking in as a substitute, the Portland forward got on the end of a free kick from teammate Christen Westphal and outraced Lyon keeper Christiane Endler to net an 87th-minute game-winner.
Two perfect touches: All it took to break a deadlock and capture a trophy.