Britt Eckerstrom dominant in Portland Thorns stunning win over Courage

Britt Eckerstrom NWSL Thorns

Herriman, Utah — Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: a playoff match between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns. It’s a rivalry that intensified over the years. There’s bitterness, utter dislike and many emotions thrown into this rivalry. And, for a while, the North Carolina Courage had the edge.

That ended today, at the hands of Britt Eckerstrom and the Portland Thorns.

Eckerstrom was dominant in goal over the Courage, making eight saves to preserve a clean-sheet victory. She earned the nod due to an injury to tournament standout Bella Bixby. Portland even had to sign goalkeeper coach Nadine Angerer to an emergency goalkeeper contract.

North Carolina midfielder Debinha shot against Eckerstrom five times. The Portland goalkeeper’s best save came on a curling free kick by the Brazilian. She also denied Debinha on a one-on-one play, too.

“Britt Eckerstrom today, that was the game of her life,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said.

For North Carolina, it’s a rare loss. Meanwhile, for Portland, it’s a ticket punched to the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals. They will take on the winner of tonight’s Houston Dash and Utah Royals match.

After the match, Parsons mentioned he had an immense amount of respect for North Carolina.

“They obviously have led the way of how good women’s football can be. It would take something special to beat them. Before we left Portland, we believed we had something special… The power of our group, and togetherness, is our strength.”

Portland’s lone goal came in the 68th minute by rookie Morgan Weaver. The product out of Washington State was given a gorgeous assist by Costa Rican midfielder Raquel “Rocky” Rodríguez. It was Weaver’s first professional goal.

Three takeaways from the Portland Thorns victory

  • Go with the hot hand: Goalkeepers thrive on consistency, and so does the rest of the team. Mark Parsons has a choice to make if Bella Bixby is healthy: does he bring her back or go with Eckerstrom. Right now, you need to go with the hot hand. Eckerstrom should start in the next game.
  • Angela Salem is an underdog: Angela Salem had one mistake in the match. Her foul led to Debinha’s free kick that, as mentioned, Eckerstrom calmly saved. Other than that, Salem was on fire in the midfield. She shifted well between defensive duties and passing to create opportunities. She was even close to scoring, as she narrowly shot over the crossbar in the first half.
  • This doesn’t tarnish a legacy: One loss does not dismantle the North Carolina Courage legacy. The Courage are still the most dominant team in the NWSL. Unless another team goes almost undefeated, wins an ICC Cup and a title in the same year, they’re not in conversation to dismantle the Courage as the top team. However, this is a major lesson for Paul Riley and his young group of players.

What’s next? 

Tonight, the Thorns will learn who they face in the semifinals at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Courage will take on either the Houston Dash or Utah Royals FC. The semifinals will happen on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on CBS All-Access.

 

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