The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup opened play Saturday, and the curtain-raiser featured key contributions from two UCLA products.
Both goals scored by the North Carolina Courage in their 2-1 win over the Portland Thorns were assisted by Bruins. Making her NWSL debut off the bench, defender Hailie Mace hit a beautiful cross from the right side that was headed in by Debinha to open the scoring in the game in the 75th minute.
2019 #NWSLChampionship MVP and now first goalscorer at the #NWSLChallengeCup. @Debinha7 is always on a mission.— NWSL (@NWSL) June 27, 2020
1-0 | #NCvPOR
Tune in now on @CBS, @CBSAllAccess, and @Twitch. pic.twitter.com/ZynNgO2rd1
Then, deep in second-half stoppage time, with the game tied 1-1, Sam Mewis made a push forward to try and win the game, and broadly replicated Mace’s earlier play, running up the right side and hitting a cross that was headed in, this time by Lynn Williams, to win the game.
North Carolina were expected to beat Portland on the day, but had to sweat out the result more than most thought they would need to coming into the game. But Mewis’ steady play in midfield and Mace’s contribution off the bench ensured the Courage would come away with the opening-day win.
In addition, a third Bruin, Abby Dahlkemper, started and played the full 90 minutes in the win for North Carolina.
North Carolina’s next game in the NWSL Challenge Cup comes Wednesday, when they take on the Washington Spirit, which won their opening game Saturday as well, 2-1 over the Chicago Red Stars. Former UCLA star Ashley Sanchez started for Washington, her professional debut, while fellow rookie and Bruin Kaiya McCullough did not dress for the game. Wednesday’s game between North Carolina and Washington will kick off at 7 pm PT and can be watched in the United States on CBS All Access.