Paul Riley took the lead in the chorus wishing the the National Women’s Soccer League had more games of consequence in cup competitions, for the lessons that those high-pressure environments would teach players. His North Carolina Courage team was on the receiving end of that harsh and recurring reality of knockout soccer on Friday in a 1-0 loss to the Portland Thorns in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup quarterfinals.
The heavily-favored Courage attempted over twice as many shots as the Thorns but failed to convert any of them, putting only eight on frame. Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom — starting in place of an injured Bella Bixby, who had assumed the job due to United States international Adrianna Franch’s injury — saved all eight in mostly spectacular fashion, denying Debinha on everything from a point-blank free kick to a 1-v-1 breakaway. Portland rookie Morgan Weaver sealed the victory with a 68th-minute goal on one of the only clear opportunities the Thorns had to that point.
And thus, the two-time defending NWSL champions were bounced from the Challenge Cup at the quarterfinal stage in a pretty epic upset.
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