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NWSL: Lynn Williams Scores Twice, NC Courage Down Washington Spirit 2-0

NWSL - Lynn Williams - NC Courage
Mitchell Northam

Lynn Williams scored twice to help the North Carolina Courage beat the Washington Spirit 2-0 on Wednesday night in the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament in Herriman, Utah.

Williams has a league-leading three goals in the tournament for the two-time defending NWSL champions, considered the Challenge Cup favorites.

The first goal of the night for the 27-year-old forward put North Carolina in front in the 50th minute as the Courage’s pressure forced the Spirit into a costly error. Instead of trying to contain Williams along the right touchline, Spirit defender Samantha Staab went for a sliding tackle. But Williams quickly recovered, sprinted into open space with the ball at her feet, then cut into the penalty box to slice a shot past Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe.

“I think we just kind of wore them down a bit,” Williams said. “Originally, I was going to cross it, and then nobody stopped me.”

Williams then added a second goal in the 61st minute at Zions Bank Stadium, tapping in a cross from her teammate Debinha, a Brazilian midfielder.

“They came after us like a buzz saw. Credit to (the Courage). They’re a really good side,” Spirit head coach Richie Burke said. “They’re a machine. They’re the two-time champions for a reason.”

On the defensive end, the Courage’s backline remained stout, allowing just one of the Spirit’s five shots to land on-target, an attempt that was saved by Stephanie Labbe. Kaleigh Kurtz – playing at centerback in-place of U.S. national team defender Abby Dahlkemper, who was given the match off for rest – tallied a team-high three tackles.

The match also marked the first start of Lauren Milliet’s career. The 23-year-old midfielder logged 68 minutes, notching a shot attempt and a tackle.

With two wins in two games, the Courage now sit atop the tournament table.

Williams also scored in stoppage time to give the Courage a 2-1 victory over Portland on Saturday in the opener. North Carolina rookie Ally Watt tore a ligament in her right knee during that win against the Thorns and is out for the tournament, delivering a blow to the Courage’s attacking depth.

The eight teams taking part in the Challenge Cup are sequestered in Utah for the duration of the tournament, which is being played without fans in attendance. The league’s ninth team, the Orlando Pride, was forced to withdraw last week because of multiple positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff.

Next up for the Courage is a meeting with the winless Chicago Red Stars, a rematch of the 2019 NWSL Championship. That match is set for Sunday at 12:30 p.m. EST. Fans can watch on CBS All Access, the network’s subscription streaming service.

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Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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