Soccer

Portland Thorns FC, Chicago Red Stars play to scoreless draw in NWSL Challenge Cup

Sky Blue played to a scoreless draw with OL Reign on Tuesday night, and the Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars played to a scoreless draw Wednesday in the group stage of the National Women's Soccer League's Challenge Cup tournament.

Sky Blue FC, OL Reign also settle for scoreless draw in tournament group stage

The Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars played to a scoreless draw Wednesday in the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament. The NWSL is the first professional team sport in the United States to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Twitter/@NWSL)

The Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars played to a scoreless draw Wednesday in the group stage of the National Women's Soccer League's Challenge Cup tournament.

Portland dominated possession and outshot Chicago's young lineup but couldn't manage to score in the match played without fans in Herriman, Utah.

Rookie Morgan Weaver had a good chance for the Thorns in the 14th minute but Chicago goalkeeper Emily Boyd got a hand on it and pushed it over the net. Raquel Rodriguez also had a shot from distance go just wide after coming in off the bench in the second half.

Chicago's Savannah McCaskill had a free kick in the 85th minute that went wide.

WATCH | Portland unable to break through against Chicago:

The Portland Thorns had their chances, but were unable to find the back of the net in a 0-0 scoreless draw against the Chicago Red Stars. 0:41

The game was the second of the tournament for both teams. The Red Stars swapped out their lineup from the opener, with key players including Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Kealia Watt and Yuki Nagasato all on the bench. Red Stars coach Rory Dames has said he wants to give young players experience during the tournament.

Boyd replaced Naeher in goal to start the game and Cassie Miller was subbed in for the second half.

The Thorns were without Becky Sauerbrunn, who had played in the opener, because of a hip injury. Portland is also without goalkeeper Adrianna Franch for the duration of the tournament because of a knee injury. Tobin Heath opted not to play in the Challenge Cup.

Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby has started in goal for the Thorns in both games.

The Thorns lost the tournament opener Saturday to the defending champion North Carolina Courage, 2-1. The Red Stars fell to the Washington Spirit 2-1 in their opener.

All eight teams participating in the tournament play four group stage matches to determine seeding for the quarterfinals. The league's ninth team, the Orlando Pride, withdrew because of positive COVID-19 tests.

The NWSL is the first professional team sports league in the United States to return to play amid the coronavirus pandemic. The teams were in training camp when the league shut down on March 12.

Williams leads Courage past Spirit

Lynn Williams scored twice to help the North Carolina Courage beat the Washington Spirit 2-0 on Wednesday night in the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament.

Williams has three goals in the tournament for the two-time defending league champions, considered the Challenge Cup favourites.

Williams put North Carolina in front in the 50th minute, then added a second goal in the 61st at Zions Bank Stadium. With two wins, the Courage sit atop the tournament table.

WATCH | Williams starts in victory:

Lynn Williams scored a pair of goals to lead the North Carolina Courage to a 2-0 win over the Washington Spirit. 0:54

Williams also scored in stoppage time to give the Courage a 2-1 victory over Portland on Saturday in the opener. North Carolina rookie Ally Watt tore a ligament in her right knee during the win against the Thorns and is out for the tournament.

Rose Lavelle and Ashley Hatch scored to lift the Spirit to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday.

The eight teams taking part in the Challenge Cup are sequestered in Utah for the duration of the tournament, which is being played without fans in attendance. The league's ninth team, the Orlando Pride, was forced to withdraw last week because of multiple positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff.

Canada's Kailen Sheridan salvages draw for Sky Blue

Sky Blue played to a scoreless draw with OL Reign on Tuesday night in the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament.

Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan leapt to stop Jasmyne Spencer's breakaway attempt in the 85th minute, preserving the draw in the tournament opener for both teams.

The Reign are playing the Challenge Cup without Megan Rapinoe, who opted out of the tournament. Sky Blue is without national team players Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh because of injuries.

WATCH | Kailen Sheridan's late stop secures draw:

Whitby, Ontario's Kailen Sheridan denied Jasmyne Spencer in the 85th minute to preserve Sky Blue FC's 0-0 draw against the OL Reign. 0:45

The Reign had a good chance in the 57th minute when Darian Jenkins' header off a feed from Bethany Balcer went just wide of the left post.

Sky Blue's Elizabeth Eddy got a good look in the 71st minute that was scooped up by Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy.

There were big changes for the Reign in the off-season. They were purchased by OL Groupe, the parent company of French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais, in December.

In January, the team named Farid Benstiti coach to replace Vlatko Andonovski, who became the head coach of the U.S. national team.

The Utah Royals played to a 3-3 draw with the Houston Dash in the earlier game Tuesday.

Nearly all the players on both teams took a knee when the national anthem played before the game. The majority of the NWSL's players have been kneeling during the anthem. Additionally, players have worn Black Lives Matter T-shirts during warmups and observed a moment of silence before each kickoff.

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