HERRIMAN, Utah – Lynn Williams scored in stoppage time and the North Carolina Courage defeated the Portland Thorns 2-1 in the opening game of the National Women's Soccer League's Challenge Cup tournament on Saturday.
The NWSL is the first professional team sport to return amid the coronavirus pandemic, but fans will not be allowed at any of the games. The teams had opened preseason training camps but had not played any games when the league shut down on March 12.
Players from both teams collectively took a knee during the national anthem and wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts in pre-game warmups to protest racial inequity.
After a scoreless first half, Brazilian Debinha broke through for the Courage by tapping in a ball served up by former UCLA standout Hailie Mace. But the Thorns tied it minutes later when Simone Charley scored off a scramble in front of the North Carolina goal after Lindsey Horan's shot rebounded off the crossbar.
Williams scored the go-ahead goal on a header off a cross from Samantha Mewis.
“I just saw an opening and right when she looked up I thought, `She's going to cross it in,'” Williams said. “Luckily, no one marked me and luckily it went in the goal."
The Washington Spirit plays the Chicago Red Stars in the tournament's late game on Saturday night.
The eight teams taking part in the Challenge Cup are sequestered in Utah for the duration of the monthlong tournament and must follow a strict protocol that includes frequent testing.