NWSL Challenge Cup: Courage makes it three wins in three games

The two-time defending North Carolina Courage won its third straight game and clinched the top seed in the knockout stage of the NWSL Challenge Cup with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars.

A late goal from captain Abby Erceg on a header off a pass from Jaelene Daniels gave the Courage the win and nine points, more than double any other team in the tournament.

“Our first-half performance wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be,” Erceg said afterwards. “When we came out [for the second half], we wanted to be a little bit sharper, a little bit quicker. We took advantage of that in a set piece, and obviously, I was really happy about that.”

The Courage will be off until July 13 when it will face Sky Blue FC to finish the preliminary round of the NWSL Challenge Cup.

July 5 in Herriman, Utah
NC Courage 1 Chicago 0. Goal: Erceg (Daniels) 81.
NC Courage -- Rowland; R.Williams, Dahlkemper, Erceg, Daniels; O’Sullivan, Mewis, Dunn (Milliet 70), Debinha (Speck 85); Hamilton (Mace 70), Williams
Chicago -- Naeher; St. Georges (Goralski, 87), Ertz, Gorden, Short; Colaprico (McCaskill, 64), Gautrat, DiBernardo; Watt (Johnson, 80), Nagasato (Doniak, 80), Hill (Vasconcelos, 80).

Rookie Ashley Sanchez set up teammate Sam Staab for the equalizer with an incredible back-heel flick of corner kick to the near post to give the Washington Spirit a 1-1 tie with the Portland Thorns for its first win in three games. The Thorns have drawn twice after opening with a 2-1 loss to the Courage.

Portland had taken the lead eight minutes earlier when Meghan Klingenberg's free kick found Lindsey Horan with a diving header.

July 5 in Herriman, Utah
Portland 1 Washington 1. Goals: Horan (Klingenberg) 68; Staab (Sanchez) 76.
Portland -- Bixby; Menges; Klingenberg (Reynolds 79); Hubly; Westphal (Pogarch 69); Horan; R.Rodriguez; Salem (Seiler 70); Lussi; Weaver (Charley 70); Sinclair (Everett 46)
Washington -- Bledsoe; Nielsen; McGrady; Jacobs (Huster 78); Staab; Sullivan, DiBiasi (Bailey 70); Feist (Lavelle 46); Yokoyama (Hellstrom 72); Collins (Hatch 46); Sanchez.
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