The Portland Thorns pulled off a massive upset in the NWSL Challenge Cup quarterfinals on Friday. The eighth-seeded Thorns, who were winless in four preliminary round games, beat the top-seeded North Carolina Courage 1-0. The reigning NWSL champion Courage won all four of their preliminary round games and were the heavy favorites to win the Challenge Cup. Instead, they were the first team to get eliminated in the eight-team tournament as Portland's Morgan Weaver scored the winning goal in the 68th minute.
The Courage had plenty of chances, from the first minute through second-half stoppage time, but none of their 21 shots found the back of the net. The Courage put eight shots on goal, but they were all turned away by Thorns' goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom. Starting in place of the injured Bella Bixby, Eckerstrom had one of the best individual performances of the Challenge Cup.
The Thorns had 11 shots of their own, and broke through when Rocky Rodriguez found Weaver right in front of net about midway through the second half.
Portland, which snapped a seven-match winless streak that dated back to last season, advances to the semifinals. The Thorns will face either the fourth-seeded Houston Dash or the fifth-seeded Utah Royals on Wednesday in the next round. Every game of the 2020 Challenge Cup is streaming on CBS All Access.
Thorns 1, Courage 0 (Final)
⚽- Thorns: Morgan Weaver - 68'
North Carolina Courage: The reigning NWSL champions were unable to break through after going undefeated in their group stage. North Carolina came out attacking early, and got offensive opportunities on goal immediately. But the Courage were unable to get on the scoreboard due to some some questionable shot selection combined with some big saves by Eckerstrom. There was some outstanding play from Debinha and Lynn Williams in front of goal and Jaelene Daniels on the flank, however it ended up not being enough to extend the Courage's tournament run.
Portland Thorns FC: The Thorns headed into their knockout rounds on an uncharacteristically defensive-minded game plan against the Courage. Portland is typically an attacking-minded team, but had struggled to connect on goal during group play. The team adjusted for the quarterfinal against North Carolina and was able to contend through strong midfield play. The Thorns did not initially play into a low block against the Courage as is typical of some opposition. A great end-line play in the box from Rodriguez to Weaver for the goal, and an outstanding goal keeper performance from Eckerstrom were the difference makers in the upset.