1. NWSL goalkeeper gets some praise for standing during national anthem  Fox News
  2. Now is the time to stop playing the national anthem at sporting events  Yahoo Sports
  3. NWSL says players can stay in locker rooms while national anthem plays  ESPN
  4. Women's Soccer Permits Players to Stay in Locker Room for National Anthem  The Daily Beast
  5. Getting rid of the anthem in sports now will let the wrong people off the hook  Yahoo Sports
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News
A National Women’s Soccer League player received praise on social media as a photo surfaced of her standing for the national anthem while others knelt to protest police brutality and racial injustice.A National Women’s Soccer League player received praise on social media as a photo surfaced of her standing for the national anthem while others knelt to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Sports, welcome back. Saturday’s doubleheader provided all the excitement we anticipated from having the best in women’s soccer back on the pitch. Now, with the first two matches of the NWSL Challenge Cup under our belt, we shift our attention to the other four clubs who will take the field for the first time in 2020 on Tuesday. Both matches will be telecast on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Canada with international fans able to stream on Twitch. We know our stan had us finish defeated on Saturday, so we’re counting on you, the fans, to pull us in the right direction. To cast your vote for who the Pride will be rooting for throughout Tuesday’s slate, follow @ORLPride on Twitter and also follow the Club’s pages on Instagram and Facebook. Houston Dash vs. Utah Royals FC (12:30 p.m ET, CBS All Access) The first matchup on Tuesday will see two sides square off that made significant changes this offseason when the Houston Dash take on the host club, Utah Royals FC. Not only did both sides debut some of the best new kits since we saw them last (Houston...giving you the edge here), but they also added many new pieces to their respective rosters. The Dash saw a number of their marquee players depart following the 2019 campaign, namely forward Kealia Watt, the club’s captain the last three seasons. Following six seasons in Houston where she registered 114 appearances with 28 goals scored and 16 assists, Watt was dealt to Chicago this offseason via trade. Also suiting up elsewhere in 2020 are forward Sofia Huerta and defender Amber Brooks, who appeared in each of the Dash’s 24 matches in 2019. Both were dealt to OL Reign in early February in a trade that saw the Dash acquire forward Shea Groom and defender Megan Oyster from the Tacoma-based side. Huerta finished tied for the team-lead in goals scored a year ago with five, while Brooks played every minute of the 2019 campaign. Following a 2019 that saw the Dash finish second to last in the league in goals scored with just 21, it was clear that Head Coach James Clarkson looked to fortify their attack this offseason. Groom is an exciting addition to that attack, having scored 21 goals throughout her NWSL career, including two in 15 appearances last season for the Reign. In addition, Clarkson dealt a trade with the Royals to acquire forward Katie Stengel, who is set to make her Dash debut on Tuesday against her former club. Stengel scored two goals for the Royals last season and was the club’s leading scorer in their inaugural campaign in 2018 with six finishes. Stengel and Groom will look to add to an attack spearheaded by English international Rachel Daly. Despite missing seven matches in 2019 while away at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Daly finished the season tied for the team-high with Huerta for goals scored with five. Midfielder Kristie Mewis will also be a major piece on the offensive for the Dash, returning to Houston following a 2019 season where she netted four goals and added two assists. On the defensive side of the ball, Houston acquired center back Katie Naughton as part of the trade that sent Watt to Chicago. Naughton was a stalwart on the backline for Chicago a year ago, appearing in 22 matches for the Red Stars with 18 starts, helping lead them to their first NWSL Championship appearance. Joining her in Houston is Oyster, from OL Reign, who started 20 games a year ago and is entering her sixth NWSL season, along with defender Erin Simon, acquired from West Ham United of the FA Women’s Super League. Naughton, Oyster and Simon will look to improve a defense centered around goalkeeper Jane Campbell, who played every minute of the 2019 season for the Dash, registering 71 saves and six clean sheets. Campbell, now entering her fourth NWSL season, has recently been called into camp for U.S. WNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovksi and will be a huge factor in how the Dash fare throughout the tournament. Other key returners for the Dash are Canadian National Team members defender Allysha Chapman, midfielder Sophie Schmidt and forward Nichelle Prince. Prince, along with forwards Veronica Latsko and Kayla McCoy, will return to the squad after suffering season-ending injuries early in the 2019 season. Now to the hosts, the Utah Royals. So this team at first glance is going to look...a little different. Starting at the helm, Head Coach Laura Harvey departed the club this offseason to take over the U-20 U.S. WNT following two years in Utah, where she led the Royals to a 19-17-2 record. Harvey leaves the NWSL second in the league in career wins, with a 72-52-38 record combined between her time in Utah and her previous tenure at Reign FC. Harvey is replaced by Craig Harrington, who joins the Royals after serving as the first assistant for the Chicago Red Stars. Through two seasons in Chicago, Harrington helped the Red Stars to a 23-12-13 record, two NWSL Playoff appearances and the club’s first NWSL Championship appearance a year ago. Before his time in the NWSL, Harrington served as the Technical Director and Head Coach for the Turks and Caicos Men’s National Team. Looking at the personnel, the Royals most notable departure is that of U.S. WNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who was the club’s first-ever signing in late 2017 and its captain for the last two seasons. The 2019 NWSL Defender of the Year joined the Portland Thorns in March via trade, with the Royals receiving allocation money and defender Elizabeth Ball in return. In two years, Sauerbrunn appeared in 34 matches for the Royals, leading the backline to 13 clean sheets. Additionally, the Royals announced last week that forward Christen Press will not feature in the Challenge Cup. Despite missing 10 matches while away at the FIFA Women’s World Cup a year ago, Press netted eight goals for the Royals, just one shy of the team lead, and added two assists in 2019. Other departures for Utah include forwards Makenzy Doniak and Stengel via trades with the Chicago Red Stars and Houston Dash respectively, along with midfielders Erica Tmyrak, Mandy Laddish and defender Sydney Miramontez, all to retirement. On the flip side, the Royals have added some new faces to their roster, including midfielder Aminata Diallo on loan from Paris Saint-Germain for the 2020 season, while also signing defender Taylor Leach following four years in Sweden and midfielder Chestley Strother from Swedish side Sundvall DFF. The Royals have also signed two of their NWSL College Draft selections in forwards Tziarra King out of NC State and Kate Del Fava from Illinois State, taken eighth and 12th overall respectively. Additionally, the Royals have signed midfielders Marissa Sheva and Holly Daugirda to short-term contracts. While the name recognition may not be the same, much of the Royals core roster from a year ago is back for the Challenge Cup. Two key figures are that of World Cup Champions Amy Rodriguez and Kelley O’Hara, the former named the club captain following the departure of Sauerbrunn and the latter poised to be the new anchor of the Royals’ backline. Also returning on the defensive are defenders Rachel Corsie and Katie Bowen, along with goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who led the league with 10 clean sheets a year ago. In the midfield, Spanish international Vero Boquete and Canadian National Team members Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott return to the club, along with Lo’eau Labonta, who registered 22 appearances a year ago. The attack will be led by Rodriguez, who led the Royals with nine goals a year ago. Joining her will be forward Brittany Ratcliffe after missing the 2019 season to injury and newcomer Ariele Shipp, who the Royals claimed off the Re-Entry Wire at the end of 2019. With all these moving parts, it’s safe to say this matchup is wildly unpredictable. OL Reign vs. Sky Blue FC (10 p.m. ET, CBS All Access) The nightcap will feature OL Reign...formerly Reign FC...formerly Seattle Reign, if you’re keeping score, and Sky Blue FC to close out the first round of matches for the Challenge Cup. So OL Reign had a lot of changes since we last saw them, not necessarily to player personnel, but literally everything else. For starters, the name. This offseason, it was announced that Reign FC had entered into a definitive agreement with OL Groupe, the parent company of French side Olympique Lyonnais to acquire Reign FC. With the acquisition came a new brand identity, thus OL Reign. Now, at the helm. Former Reign Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski departed to the U.S. Women’s National Team following the 2019 campaign, filling the void left by former U.S. WNT Head Coach Jill Ellis. Andonovski spent two seasons with the Reign following a successful tenure at FC Kansas City, compiling a 68-47-43 record in his seven seasons in the NWSL. Andonovski has been replaced by France native Farid Benstiti, one of the most decorated coaches in women’s professional soccer. Benstiti brings eight domestic league titles to OL Reign across three countries, having taken both Olympique Lyonnais and PSG to the UEFA Women’s Champions League final. After combing through all that, now we can shift to the personnel. OL Reign’s Challenge Cup roster includes 12 new signings, most notably defender Alana Cook, who joined the club just over a week ago via a short-term loan from PSG. Cook, who signed with PSG in January of 2019, made eight appearances and helped the club finish as runners-up in the 2018-19 Division 1 Féminine season. Cook has also appeared in five champions league matches for Paris Saint-Germain in the past two seasons. Other additions for the Reign include former Dash members Huerta and Brooks, as well as former Orlando Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt, all acquired via trade. OL Reign also added Costa Rican midfielder Shirley Cruz, Japanese forward Yuka Momiki and Colorado Springs native defender Adrienne Jordan from FA WSL side Birmingham City. Additionally, the Tacoma-based side has signed NWSL College Draft selection Kelcie Hedge, who they selected ninth-overall out of Santa Clara. Departing the Reign this offseason were Oyster and Groom to Houston, forward Ifeoma Onumonu via trade with Sky Blue, defender Steph Catley and forward Bev Yanez to retirement among others. Forward Megan Rapinoe will not be on the pitch for the Reign at the Challenge Cup either, as she has elected to forgo the competition. Returning to OL Reign are each of their four top-scorers from a year ago in NWSL Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer, along with forwards Darian Jenkins and Jodie Taylor, as well as midfielder Jessica Fishlock. Fishlock is one of four key players returning to the field in 2020 after a season-ending injury a year ago, along with goalkeeper Michelle Betos, defender Taylor Smith and forward Jasmyne Spencer. U.S. WNT midfielder Allie Long will serve as the Reign’s only Federation player for the tournament with Rapinoe’s absence, joined by New Zealand international Rosie White in the midfield. Now, on to Sky Blue. To begin the offseason, Sky Blue officially named Freya Coombe as Head Coach following her interim role with the club in 2019. Coombe previously served as the Director of Scouting and as a Development Academy Coach for New York Soccer Club prior to her time at Sky Blue. The New Jersey-based side worked to rebuild and rewrite the narrative surrounding the club this offseason, adding numerous players to improve their roster. However, some injuries ahead of the tournament may haunt the club when it comes to Tuesday’s matchup. Sky Blue’s biggest addition was undoubtedly that of U.S. WNT forward Mallory Pugh, who they acquired via a draft day trade with the Washington Spirit. However, the club announced last week that Pugh will not be available for the tournament due to a right hip injury. Also missing the tournament due to injury is team captain Carli Lloyd, the club’s leading goal scorer from a year ago and defender Caprice Dydasco, who played in all but one match for Sky Blue a year ago. Despite these injuries however, there still is lots of potential on the roster to make a splash in the tournament. The most exciting prospect is midfielder Midge Purce, who Sky Blue acquired via trade with the Portland Thorns for midfielder Rocky Rodríguez. A breakout star for the Thorns in 2019, Purce trailed only Canadian international Christine Sinclair in goals last season, netting eight while adding one assist. Joining Purce in New Jersey are veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni from North Carolina and Onumonu from OL Reign, both of which made over 20 appearances for their respective clubs a year ago. On draft day, the club made four selections, most notably taking USF-product Evelyne Viens at fifth-overall and defender Kaleigh Rahl from Penn State at 11th overall, both of which they have since signed. Returning to the club this season is Canadian international goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who shared the league lead in saves with Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe a year ago with 86. She’ll anchor the Sky Blue backline along with Erica Skroski to make up for the absence of Dydasco. Midfielder Sarah Woldmoe, formerly Killion, returns to the club as well, serving as the captain in Lloyd’s absence, while up top forwards Imami Dorsey and Paige Monaghan will look to help facilitate the attack along with Purce and Onumonu. Again, there’s a lot of changes on the pitch with this one too. With OL Reign looking to continue their success from a year ago and Sky Blue trying to make a statement, it should be a battle at Zions Bank Stadium come Tuesday night.Sports, welcome back. Saturday’s doubleheader provided all the excitement we anticipated from having the best in women’s soccer back on the pitch. Now, with the first two matches of the NWSL Challenge Cup under our belt, we shift our attention to the other four clubs who will take the field for

NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Tuesday, June 30 | Orlando City Soccer Club

Players in the NWSL Challenge Cup now have the option of remaining in the locker room during the national anthem, the league announced.Players in the NWSL Challenge Cup now have the option of remaining in the locker room during the national anthem, the league announced.

NWSL says players can stay in locker rooms while national anthem plays

Players from NWSL's North Carolina and Portland teams wore "Black Lives Matter" shirts and kneeled in a moment of silence at Saturday's Challenge Cup.Players from NWSL's North Carolina and Portland teams wore "Black Lives Matter" shirts and kneeled in a moment of silence at Saturday's Challenge Cup.

Challenge Cup: NWSL players wear 'Black Lives Matter' shirts, kneel

Many players kneeled during the national anthem on Saturday as the Challenge Cup kicked offMany players kneeled during the national anthem on Saturday as the Challenge Cup kicked off

NWSL revises national anthem policy for 2020 Challenge Cup, will allow players to remain in locker room - CBSSports.com

It’s Episode 98 of the Utah Royals FC Show.It’s Episode 98 of the Utah Royals FC Show.

URFC Show (98) : Royals vs. Dash preview & more! - RSL Soapbox

It’s creating a hostile work environment and negatively affecting performance.It’s creating a hostile work environment and negatively affecting performance.

Stop playing the national anthem before NWSL games - All For XI

NWSL becomes the first American team sport to make its return.NWSL becomes the first American team sport to make its return.

Major Link Soccer: Ch-ch-ch-challenge Cup - Sounder At Heart

Players for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the national anthem Saturday when the National Women's Soccer League opened the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah. The players and coaches wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts in warmups before the game, which was nationally televised on CBS. The players also knelt during a moment of silence before kickoff.Players for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the national anthem Saturday when the National Women's Soccer League opened the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah. The players and coaches wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts in warmups before the game, which was nationally televised on CBS. The players also knelt during a moment of silence before kickoff.

NWSL players kneel during the national anthem | KUTV

NWSL players kneel during the national anthem

SANDY, Utah (Monday, June 29, 2020) – Utah Royals FC is set to play its first match in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret on Tuesday, June 30 against the Houston Dash. The match will kick off at 10:30a MT at Zions Bank Stadium and will be streamed live on the CBS All-Access

URFC Opens NWSL Challenge Cup Venture Tuesday Against Houston | Real Salt Lake

United States Women's National Team soccer stars packed rosters to kick off the NWSL Challenge Cup and played up to expectations, as dramatic goals led the North Carolina Courage and Washington Spirit to victories.United States Women's National Team soccer stars packed rosters to kick off the NWSL Challenge Cup and played up to expectations, as dramatic goals led the North Carolina Courage and Washington Spirit to victories.

U.S. women's soccer stars net dramatic NWSL wins, Madrid gets La Liga lead - UPI.com

SALT LAKE CITY — After last Saturday’s opening two matches of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup in Herriman saw most players kneel and a particularly poignant moment between...SALT LAKE CITY — After last Saturday’s opening two matches of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup in Herriman saw most players kneel and a particularly poignant moment between...

National Women’s Soccer League makes change to anthem protocol for remainder of Challenge Cup - Deseret News

After two entertaining games to kick off the NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday, the tournament resumes with four midweek contests. There are also big games in Spain, Germany and England.After two entertaining games to kick off the NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday, the tournament resumes with four midweek contests. There are also big games in Spain, Germany and England.

Soccer on TV: NWSL Challenge Cup, Barcelona-Atlético Madrid, Manchester City-Liverpool

The NWSL is evaluating its anthem usage, how the Sky Blue GM is assisting her players, and more tidbits from the return of American soccerThe NWSL is evaluating its anthem usage, how the Sky Blue GM is assisting her players, and more tidbits from the return of American soccer

Challenge Cup Thoughts: Soccer finally returns and larger conversations persist – The Athletic

The NWSL is evaluating its anthem usage, how the Sky Blue GM is assisting her players, and more tidbits from the return of American soccerThe NWSL is evaluating its anthem usage, how the Sky Blue GM is assisting her players, and more tidbits from the return of American soccer

Challenge Cup Thoughts: Soccer finally returns and larger conversations persist – The Athletic

The NWSL returned on Saturday, so let’s look at the Tar Heels taking part in their tournament.The NWSL returned on Saturday, so let’s look at the Tar Heels taking part in their tournament.

Several UNC women’s soccer alumns taking part in NWSL Challenge Cup - Tar Heel Blog

The league’s announcement comes two days after players took a knee on the field during the Challenge Cup in support of Black Lives Matter.The league’s announcement comes two days after players took a knee on the field during the Challenge Cup in support of Black Lives Matter.

National Women’s Soccer League Permits Players to Stay in Locker Room for National Anthem

Craig Harrington came into his new gig as coach of the Utah Royals FC touting how he wanted to play “high octane” soccer. Translation: He wants to score goals.Craig Harrington came into his new gig as coach of the Utah Royals FC touting how he wanted to play “high octane” soccer. Translation: He wants to score goals.

Utah Royals looking to committee of forwards for goals after Christen Press opts out of Challenge Cup - The Salt Lake Tribune

Former BYU Women's Soccer legend - Ashley Hatch - returns to Utah to compete in NWSL Challenge Cup.Former BYU Women's Soccer legend - Ashley Hatch - returns to Utah to compete in NWSL Challenge Cup.

Former BYU Women’s Soccer Standout Returns to Utah to Compete in the NWSL Challenge Cup

Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage players took a knee during the national anthem as the National Women’s Soccer League began on Saturday. The players also wore T-shirts reading “Black Lives Matter” before kick-off. The teams said it was to protest against “racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against black people and people of […]

National Women's Soccer League players kneel to protest against racial injustice - MyJoyOnline.com

Thorns and Courage players said: 'We took a knee today to protest systemic racism against black people and people of colour in America' Thorns and Courage players said: 'We took a knee today to protest systemic racism against black people and people of colour in America'

American players moved to tears in emotional Black Lives Matter protest

Fox analyst and former Team USA soccer star Alexi Lalas has deleted and apologized for a tweet in which he said that, in the current climateFox analyst and former Team USA soccer star Alexi Lalas has deleted and apologized for a tweet in which he said that, in the current climate

Alexi Lalas Deletes Tweet Saying it Took 'Courage' to Stand for National Anthem

The Cork midfield maestro helped her side to a 2-1 victory.The Cork midfield maestro helped her side to a 2-1 victory.

Ireland star O'Sullivan and Courage team-mates take a knee during US anthem as football returns Stateside

Get ready for the NWSL Challenge Cup with streaming info and more!Get ready for the NWSL Challenge Cup with streaming info and more!

Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit: Game Day Guide & How to Watch - Hot Time In Old Town

Lisa Baird assumed her role as commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League on March 10. Two days later, she had to shut down the league because of the coronavirus. It’s certainly not... Lisa Baird assumed her role as commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League on March 10. Two days later, she had to shut down the league because of the coronavirus. It’s certainly not...

Players for the National Women's Soccer League's Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage took a knee during the national anthem.Players for the National Women's Soccer League's Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage took a knee during the national anthem.

First Professional Sporting Event Since Coronavirus Opened With Players Kneeling For Black Lives | HuffPost

The National Women’s Soccer League opened its season Saturday, and players from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns took a knee during the national anthem.The National Women’s Soccer League opened its season Saturday, and players from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns took a knee during the national anthem.

Women’s pro soccer teams take knee as league play resumes

Team sports is back with a dramatic opening scene.Team sports is back with a dramatic opening scene.

NWSL returns to action, all players kneel during national anthem - New York Daily News

North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns players all took a knee and wore Black Lives Matters shirts during the national anthem played before the NWSL Challenge Cup opening match Saturday in Utah.North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns players all took a knee and wore Black Lives Matters shirts during the national anthem played before the NWSL Challenge Cup opening match Saturday in Utah.

NWSL players kneel during national anthem as Challenge Cup kicks off - Orlando Sentinel

Nearly every player from the Courage and Thorns kneeled in solidarity with the movement as a saxophone played the U.S. national anthem prior to Saturday\u2019s 10:30 a.m. MT kickoff.Nearly every player from the Courage and Thorns kneeled in solidarity with the movement as a saxophone played the U.S. national anthem prior to Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. MT kickoff.

After kneeling to support racial equality, North Carolina tops Portland 2-1 in NWSL Challenge Cup opener | KSL.com

Members of the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage unanimously took knees as the Star-Spangled Banner was played in advance of Saturday's game.Members of the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage unanimously took knees as the Star-Spangled Banner was played in advance of Saturday's game.

All players kneel for national anthem as NWSL becomes first major U.S. team sport to return | Sporting News

Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage - oregonlive.com

A day of extreme emotion at NWSL Challenge Cup - 06/28/2020The Utah tournament opened with wins by the North Carolina Courage and Washington Spirit after most players, not all, knelt during the national anthem.

A day of extreme emotion at NWSL Challenge Cup 06/28/2020

The first website about watching soccer on TV and online. TV schedules, OTT news + interviews with soccer broadcasters. Founded 2005.The first website about watching soccer on TV and online. TV schedules, OTT news + interviews with soccer broadcasters. Founded 2005.

First impressions of CBS's coverage of NWSL Challenge Cup - World Soccer Talk

The first website about watching soccer on TV and online. TV schedules, OTT news + interviews with soccer broadcasters. Founded 2005.The first website about watching soccer on TV and online. TV schedules, OTT news + interviews with soccer broadcasters. Founded 2005.

First impressions of CBS's coverage of NWSL Challenge Cup - World Soccer Talk

Twenty-two starters clothed in Black Black Lives Matter T-shirts from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns knelt during the national anthem before the National Women’s Soccer League kicked off their first game of the Challenge Cup Saturday. Twenty-two starters clothed in Black Black Lives Matter T-shirts from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns knelt during the national anthem before the National Women’s Soccer League kicked off their first game of the Challenge Cup Saturday.

The NWSL Takes a Knee

Every player from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns took a knee during the national anthem and wore "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts before their NWSL match.Every player from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns took a knee during the U.S. national anthem and wore t-shirts with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” prior to their Nation…

NWSL players take a knee during national anthem at Challenge Cup

Be honest. You don’t have to hold your tongue anymore. Nobody’s going to think you’re being a downer, or being disloyal. Just tell people the truth. When you saw this starting lineup on your timeline this morning … *drum roll* Our first Starting XI of 2020. LFG! 🌹#NWSLChallengeCup | #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/VnotROCeWW — Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) June 27, 2020 ...what did you think was going to happen? Portland Thorns FC were facing the North Carolina Courage in the first match of the NWSL Challenge Cup, a Courage that’s not only the two-time defending league champions but one that outscored their playoff competition 8-1 last season. We don’t talk about that enough. Eight goals to one, against the NWSL’s best competition, over the span of 210 minutes. It makes me mad just thinking about how good that is. So when we saw a Thorns lineup without Tobin Heath and Adrianna Franch, with a new look and new options compensating for the departures of Ellie Carpenter, Andressinha, Hayley Raso and Midge Purce, what was your prediction? Did you really think this game was going to be close? It’s OK if you didn’t, but it was. It was very close. True, for the first 10 or 15 minutes, it looked like it might not be. The Courage weren’t breaking through, but the field was tilted. The game had a very North Carolina feel. Still, it took the defending champions 75 minutes to break through, after which the Thorns produced a quick response. The game ended 2-1, but no doubt, the full 90 minutes were close. Again: It’s OK to admit you were pessimistic. In fact, I think it’s the only way to properly contextualize the result. The Thorns were expected to struggle, an outlook that was less about the massive changes they made this offseason than the reality of the Courage. They were expected to struggle because every team struggles against North Carolina. Nobody comes close. And yet, the Thorns came close. They didn’t get lucky. Beyond this being the first of five, six or seven games, the performance didn’t feel like a fluke. Perhaps North Carolina didn’t play to their potential, but neither did Portland, and in a world that gave us our first glimpse of each team’s level, these new Thorns – dealing with injuries and absences, and trying to establish a new approach – competed with the recognized standard in the NWSL. How they did that, we’ll get into below. But it’s important to remember this is only game one, something that could be a virtue or a vice. If this is a stepping stone, even the most modest of incremental improvements will put Portland in contention. Mark Parsons’ prediction that his team “have a sneaky little chance here of being really successful” could prove modest. The Thorns might be real contenders come July 26’s final. They also could have overperformed. We’ve only seen this group together once. Who knows? If we’re being fair, we’ll keep the whole range of possible outcomes in mind. They could end up resting on their laurels, assuming their work has had its pay off, and lose focus on the work that’s to come. They wouldn’t be the first team to do so. For now, they’re off to a great start. They have something to build on. And here are the building blocks that matter most: 1. Bella Bixby in goal – Milwaukie’s Best finally debuted for her hometown club, reaching a huge benchmark for both her and the organization. For two years, the Oregon State alum worked in the shadows, forced to maintain faith in an improvement that couldn’t be tested on the field. Today, though, she has reason to be proud, with giving organization reason to believe its investment is playing off. Bixby showed she has an NWSL future. 2. Becky Sauerbrunn’s presences – Thorns fans have gotten used to seeing their team’s defense turn chaotic in the face of North Carolina’s pressure. But that never happened on Saturday. The Courage broke through with two late goals, but each goal was a right-to-left cross that came down to execution, not chaos. Those times in the past when we’ve seen Debinha and Crystal Dunn thrive in space between lines, and North Carolina exploit the spaces those threats created, never surfaced this morning. It’s truly amazing the calm that comes with a player like Sauerbrunn, as well as the hard work that happened around her. 3. The new look midfield - I could write 4,000 words about this, but do you really want that? No. Of course not. So let’s blurt this out: a. Lindsey Horan might be on a mission to put 2019 behind her; b. her tandem with Rocky Rodriguez was versatile enough to send one player into the wide spaces while the other got forward, both shifting the attack to offsetting numbers and putting more stress on Courage back line; c. Angela Salem’s ability to read the game and anticipate North Carolina’s next point of attack was a great complement for Horan and Rodríguez, who proved willing to slide into the space she left behind; d. and, Christine Sinclair looks every bit like her normal self. Her ability to surge into space behind the opposing midfield, lay a perfect ball into the next level of attack, then ghost into the space created by her forwards is still … well, Sinclairian. I know that’s a lot, but this midfield is a lot. This is what Mark Parsons and Gavin Wilkinson wanted. The first proof of concept was persuasive. 4. Depth at forward - The Thorns don’t have a Best XI candidate up top. We know that. But what they have is depth. Marissa Everett and Tyler Lussi started. Simone Charley and Morgan Weaver came on later, to attack a fatiguing defense. The result was Charley’s first Thorns goal. At some point, Sophia Smith will join the crew, adding yet another option, but for now, the Thorns can bring the NHL back early, making line changes with their four healthy, almost interchangeable options. There’s going to be more to talk about with the Thorns. Utah’s games are coming so fast that we’re going to see a lot of changes. Different personnel. Different looks. We may see everything this Thorns’ roster has to offer, giving us a full view of the team’s offseason makeover. But at first blush, that offering shows promise - more promise than most of us would have imagined four hours ago. On a day that started with doubts, the Thorns gave fans a reason to be confident.Be honest. You don’t have to hold your tongue anymore. Nobody’s going to think you’re being a downer, or being disloyal. Just tell people the truth. When you saw this starting lineup on your timeline this morning … *drum roll* Our first Starting XI of 2020. LFG! 🌹#NWSLChallengeCup |

No lucky breaks but a good performance in NWSL Challenge Cup opener for Thorns | Portland Timbers

Players on two National Women's Soccer League teams knelt during the national anthem and wore "Black Lives Matter" shirts ahead of their first game during the coronavirus pandemic.Players on two National Women's Soccer League teams knelt during the national anthem and wore "Black Lives Matter" shirts ahead of their first game during the coronavirus pandemic.

National women's soccer teams kneel for national anthem and wear 'Black Lives Matter' shirts

Every single athlete on the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the National Anthem on June 27, 2020.Every single athlete on the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the National Anthem on June 27, 2020.

WATCH: Every Single NWSL Athlete Kneels for National Anthem | Heavy.com

Before the opening game of the NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday, all 22 starters from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns knelt during the national anthem while wearing Black Lives Matter shirts to protest police brutality. https://twitter.Before the opening game of the NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday, all 22 starters from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns knelt during the national anthem while wearing Black Lives Matter shirts to protest police brutality.

Alexi Lalas Takes A Shot At National Women’s Soccer League Players Who Knelt During National Anthem

A lot has happened since the Chicago Red Stars last played. Here’s a quick refresher — and what to watch for — heading into the NWSL Challenge Cup.A lot has happened since the Chicago Red Stars last played. Here’s a quick refresher — and what to watch for — heading into the NWSL Challenge Cup.

Chicago Red Stars: NWSL Challenge Cup starts - Chicago Tribune

This tournament is the blueprint for every other league in the countryThis tournament is the blueprint for every other league in the country

The Best Women’s Soccer Team in the World Kicks Off Team Sports in the USA Today - Dirty South Soccer