NC Courage Ousted From National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup

Jul 17, 2020

Portland Thorns' Christine Sinclair (12) battles with North Carolina Courage forward Crystal Dunn (19) during the second half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match at Zions Bank Stadium Friday, July 17, 2020, in Herriman, Utah.
Credit Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

After a loss in the quarter finals, the North Carolina Courage has been outsed from the National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup. The Portland Thorns shut out the top-seeded, and previously undefeated, team Friday afternoon, 1-0. 

 

The NWSL tournament marked the first team sport in North America to begin or resume play in the midst of the pandemic, and it played out without fans in attendance. With the uncertainty of the coronavirus, the Challenge Cup might have been the Courage’s only chance to win a championship this year. 

Portland rookie Morgan Weaver scored in the 68th minute to send her team into the tournament semifinals. The win was eighth-seeded Portland's first victory at the tournament, and it came with the team's third-string goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom in goal. 

The Courage were positioned as the two-time defending league champions and had won all four of their Challenge Cup games going into the match. 

Eckerstrom had a stunning game, finishing with eight saves.

Weaver took a cross from Raquel Rodriguez and beat Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland, putting North Carolina behind for the first time in the tournament, and the Thorns held on the rest of the way.

It was the first professional goal for Weaver, who was the No. 2 pick in this year's NWSL draft out of Washington State.

Portland was hampered by injuries going into the game. Starting goalkeeper Adrianna Franch hasn't played in the tournament because of a right knee injury. Backup Bella Bixby, who played in the first four games, was ruled out for Friday's game because of a knee injury

Portland's backup for the game was goalkeeper coach Nadine Angerer, the former German national team standout who was the 2014 FIFA World Player of the Year.

Eckerstrom turned away Debinha's bending shot from distance in the 30th minute, making four saves in the first half alone. She stopped a dangerous header from Jessica McDonald in the 71st minute.

But her big moment came when she denied Debinha on a curling free kick in the 79th minute.

Portland's Lindsey Horan started although she was questionable going into the game with a hip injury. She left the game at the start of the second half after a hard fall.

There was a scary collision between North Carolina's Lynn Williams and Portland's Katherine Reynolds late in the first half. Reynolds had to be helped off the field and Williams had a bloody gash on her forehead that had to be bandaged.

WUNC' Digital Producer Mitchell Northam contributed to this story.