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Coming into the NWSL Challenge Cup, the North Carolina Courage were the favourites to win the tournament. The 2019 champions remained undefeated throughout the entire preliminary round, even scoring the most goals (seven) of any team. But the Courage’s promising road came to an unexpectedly short end in the first quarterfinal match when NWSL rookie Morgan Weaver scored in the 69th minute to secure a 1-0 win for the No. 8 Portland Thorns FC. 

The match was the Thorns’ first win of the tournament. They entered the quarterfinals ranked last of the eight teams after a loss and three draws in the preliminary round. 

North Carolina had numerous chances to tie the game following Weaver’s goal. Debinha took a free kick just outside the 16-yard box in the 79th minute, but Portland keeper Britt Eckerstrom was there with the save. Debinha also got a breakaway 86th minute, but again, Eckerstrom wasn’t going to let anything pass her. 

Until Weaver buried her goal, it looked like the game could belong to North Carolina, who recorded 54.4 per cent of the possession and released eight shots on goal, doubling the Thorns’ four. 

Portland will play their semi-final on July 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET against either the Houston Dash or Utah Royals FC. 

Featured photo credit: NWSL Twitter

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