North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC: Lynn Williams scores late winner in NWSL Challenge Cup opener

The National Women's Soccer League became the first professional team sports league to mark its return during the COVID-19 pandemic with the launch of the 2020 Challenge Cup in Utah. The action kicked off Saturday on CBS and CBS All Access as two-time reigning champion North Carolina Courage staved off a pesky Portland Thorns FC team at Zions Bank Stadium -- a rematch of the 2018 and 2017 championship games -- to secure a 2-1 win.

All players took a knee before the first kick-off in honor of the Black Live Matter movement. Debinha scored the first goal of the tourney, while the Thorns equalized five minutes later in the second half. It was Lynn Williams who scored the game-winning goal in added time via header to secure the three points for the Courage.

Courage 2, Thorns 1 -- FT

⚽ Courage: Debinha 75'
⚽ Thorns: Simone Charley 80'
⚽ Courage: Lynn Williams 90+4'

Takeaways

North Carolina Courage: The club entered the tournament as the favorites to win the Challenge Cup in Vegas and so far, so good. While the attempts in the first half weren't hitting the back to the net, the build-up in play provided several looks in the early stages. Lynn Willams, Debinha and Crystal Dunn were significant players throughout the half, including rookie defender Addisyn Merrick. 

A flurry of attempts down the stretch proved worthy as Debinha scored the first goal of the tournament thanks to a brilliant service from newly-acquired forward Hailie Mace, who picked up an assist in her first NWSL match. Lynn Williams provided the game-winner after an assist from Sam Mewis. 

Next game: Wednesday, July 1 at 10 p.m. vs. Washington Spirit (CBS All Access

Portland Thorns FC: The Portland squad looked a little different as it took the pitch, with newcomer Rocky Rodriguez and goalkeeper Bella Bixby getting the start. The team was able to manage the quick transitional attacks from the Courage, thanks to the outstanding pro debut of Bixby. As the team entered halftime, it was deadlocked at zero.

The lone goal came from second-year forward Simone Charley after header from Lindsay Horan ricocheted the post. 

Next game: Wednesday, July 1 at 12:30 p.m. vs. Chicago Red Stars (CBS All Access)

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June 27, 2020, 7:19 PM

FULL TIME: Courage win 2-1

Lynn Williams' header in added time proved to the be the difference in this one as the defending champs march on with three important points.

June 27, 2020, 6:43 PM

90+4' -- GOAL NC COURAGE

Lynn Williams finally comes through, scoring on a header in added time to give the two-time defending champs the lead.

June 27, 2020, 6:38 PM

90+2' -- Courage nearly takes lead

Lynn Williams found an opening inside the box and hooked her shot to the right of the Bella Bixby.

June 27, 2020, 6:36 PM

80' GOAL

Lindsay Horan gets on a header that is off the crossbar, but Simone Charley is there to clean up and equalize for Portland Thorns FC.

75' GOAL

Hallie Mace subs on for Ally Watt in the 70th minute, plays the ball end line and crosses a service into the box where Debinha connects for NC Courage.

68' Stoppage of play

NC Courage forward Ally Watt down with injury.

65' Substitution

Crystal Dunn subs off for NC Courage. Lauren Milliet on in her place.

63' Chance

NC Courage midfielder Debinha with a shot from distance! However, it's directly into the hands of Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Bella Bixby.

56' Substitutions

NC Courage substitutions Cari Roccaro and Ally Watt on for Addisyn Merrick and Kristen Hamilton.

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