League leaders North Carolina Courage saw their five-match win streak snapped and saw their chances to clinch a home semifinal and the NWSL Shield this weekend evaporate in a 0-0 draw with Utah Royals FC. The result in front of 8,529 at Rio Tinto Stadium gave the Royals the season series against the Courage with a win and two draws.
The match was played on the same day that U.S. national team camp opened meaning both teams were missing significant pieces. Both sides showed brief glimpses of aggressive, attacking soccer but for the most part the draw, and the lack of goals, was a fair representation of the night’s action.
Nicole Barnhart made only her second start of the season for the Royals and made a masterclass save in the early stages against Abby Erceg. A Royals corner kick was cleared to the far post and the recycled ball was headed by Erceg at close range. Barnhart was going the wrong way but managed to shift her momentum and make a lunging save to keep the ball from crossing the line. It was Barnhart’s biggest save in what turned out to be her first shutout since last September 24.
Late in the match, Lynn Williams got in for a chance on Barnhart and Rachel Corsie made a lengthy recovery run and then timed her tackle perfectly to knock Williams’s shot out of play for a corner kick that led to nothing.
The Courage (14-1-4, 46 pts) had their five-match win streak snapped and will not be able to clinch anything this weekend beyond the playoff berth they already had. They are heading to Miami for the inaugural women’s edition of the International Champions Cup. First up is Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday. After that is a final or third-place match on Sunday, July 29 against either Olympique Lyon or Manchester City. Their next NWSL match is Sunday, August 5 at home to Portland Thorns FC.
The Royals (5-6-7, 22 pts) snapped a three-match losing streak but remain in sixth and are still six points out of a playoff spot. They visit the Houston Dash, also August 5.
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