Defender Abby Erceg’s header in the 81st minute gave the North Carolina Courage a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup.
The two-time defending NWSL champions have won all three of their games in Utah to sit atop the tournament standings.
Erceg’s goal, her seventh in the NWSL, decided a match that was marked by strong goalkeeping on both sides.
Clean sheet ✅<a href=”https://twitter.com/Verizon?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Verizon</a> Save of the Match ✅<br><br>It was a big afternoon for <a href=”https://twitter.com/rowland_katelyn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@rowland_katelyn</a>.<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NWSLChallengeCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NWSLChallengeCup</a> <a href=”https://t.co/2Mhn9K0Fh1″>pic.twitter.com/2Mhn9K0Fh1</a>
Katelyn Rowland started in goal for the Courage for the first time in the tournament, while Stephanie Labbe was available on the bench. Rowland blocked a shot from Kealia Watt in the 21st minute.
Alyssa Naeher, who was in net for the World Cup-winning U.S. national team last summer, had a strong first-half performance for the Red Stars, including a diving save on Sam Mewis’ shot from distance in the 19th minute.
The game was a rematch of last season’s league championship, which the Courage won 4-0.
The Courage have also beaten the Portland Thorns and the Washington Spirit in the tournament, which is being played with no fans outside Salt Lake City. The Red Stars dropped their opener to the Spirit, then played to a scoreless draw with the Thorns.