The first matchday in the 2020 National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup is in the rear-view mirror after becoming the first professional team sports league to mark its return during the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday. The action continued in Utah on Wednesday on CBS All Access as the Washington Spirit and two-time reigning champion North Carolina Courage met at Zions Bank Stadium in what may have been a preview of the championship match. Both teams were coming off wins on Saturday and were each gunning for high-seeding in the knockout stage of this tournament.
But if this was supposed to be a preview of a title game, then the confidence that the Courage must have after Wednesday night should be sky-high.
Wednesday’s game continued the same scoreless streak that the last two matchups of the Challenge Cup at first, but the energy surrounding the stalemate was certainly a lot different than those that preceded it. Right from the gate, both sides threatened with strong pushes that made each defensive side get strong reps in early.
But it was the Courage that ended the half stronger of the two sides, forcing the Spirit onto their back heels with wave after wave of pressure that seemingly forced an endless number of corners.
That offensive pressure did not stop just because the game was paused for a halftime break. For the final 45 minutes of the game, the Courage kept their feet on the gas pedal, and, perhaps more importantly, kept the ball as far away from Rose Lavelle as possible.
Just four minutes into the second half, the Courage finally converted on their constant pressure, with Lynn Williams powering through a strong slide tackle from Samantha Staab to get herself in a one-on-one opportunity against Aubrey Bledsoe. Williams made good on her efforts and delivered the first goal of the game.
Not 10 minutes later, it was Williams again on the scoresheet, doubling her team's lead after she poked the ball into the back of the net following a beautiful cross from her teammate, Dubinha. There were many more opportunities for the Courage in the second half, most of which were orchestrated by the Brazilian No. 10, but all they did was keep the Spirit on their toes.
The Courage's next match is up against the winless Chicago Red Stars, while the Spirit are also up against a winless opponent: Portland Thorns FC. Both games take place on Sunday.