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NWSL Challenge Cup: Red Stars withstand Thorns in goalless draw, Courage overwhelm Spirit

Despite generating fewer chances and having less possession, Chicago Red Stars tied the Portland Thorns, 0-0, using their ‘B’ team.

Head coach Rory Dames opted to start an entirely different starting eleven for the team’s second match of the tournament. The decision to rest his starters left U.S. Women’s National Team stars such as Julie Ertz, Morgan Gautrat, and Alyssa Naeher out of the lineup.

These lineup omissions opened the door for Portland to capture their first win. The Thorns chose to start many of the same starters including Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair.

In the 14th minute, it seemed Portland may take advantage and strike first. Morgan Weaver connected with a cross inside the six yard box, but the quick right hand of Emily Boyd reflexively tipped the shot over the bar.

Savannah McCaskill, the most fouled player on the pitch for Chicago, tried to spark the offense with long-range efforts. However, Chicago failed to register a shot on goal during the match.

In the final moments of the match, Autumn Smithers nearly won the match for Portland by blasting a shot off the crossbar.

The Thorns maintained 58% possession while holding an 11 shot advantage over their Windy City foes. Both teams earned their first points of the tournament. Each team has two preliminary matches remaining.

Becky Sauerbrunn missed with a hip injury after starting the tournament’s opening match against NC Courage. Adrianna Franch did not feature again with injury complications of her own.

Courage remain undefeated with big 2nd half

If there was any doubt, the North Carolina Courage showed the league why they are Challenge Cup favorites when they soundly defeated the Washington Spirit 2-0 on Wednesday night.

After a 1st half where neither side struck a breakthrough, Courage head coach Paul Riley subbed in the fresh legs of Crystal Dunn, Samantha Mewis, and Denise O’Sullivan to complement Debinha and Lynn Williams.

It didn’t take long for the back-to-back champions to get on the scoresheet from there, as Lynn Williams scored her first goal of the night just five minutes after halftime. Williams quickly recovered from a last-ditch slide and proceeded to top off a solo run with a calm finish in the bottom right corner.

“In the first half we were trying to find our way,” said Williams in a post-game interview. “I think we wore them out a bit in the second half.”

She scored again in the 61st minute by outstretching her foot to redirect a lofted cross from Debinha. It was the third goal of the Challenge Cup for Williams as she jumped to first place in the Golden Boot standings.

U.S. Women’s National Team midfielders Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan played 70 minutes for Washington. North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper got the night off for the Courage.

Rookie Ally Watt is out the remainder of the tournament for North Carolina. Watt tore her ACL in the first match against the Portland Thorns.

North Carolina now sit comfortably atop the table with six points. The Spirit still reside in 2nd place with three points.

In their next games North Carolina will play the Chicago Red Stars, and the Portland Thorns will play the Washington Spirit on Sunday, July 5. Both games will air on CBS All Access.

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