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Courage clinch top spot in knockout stage after beating Blue for 4th straight win

Samantha Mewis and Crystal Dunn each scored and the North Carolina Courage won their fourth straight game, beating Sky Blue 2-0 on Monday night in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup.

The two-time league defending champions finished the group stage atop the field heading into the quarter-finals.

Mewis scored in the seventh minute for the fastest goal of the Challenge Cup so far. Dunn added her first goal of the tournament in the 57th minute. Both players were on the U.S. national team that won the World Cup last summer in France.

The Courage lead the tournament in goals scored with seven. They’ve allowed just one.

WATCH | Courage continue dominant tournament:

Samantha Mewis records an early goal as North Carolina Courage goes on to defeat Sky Blue FC 2-0 to finish on top of the NWSL Challenge Cup group stage at 4-0-0. 0:53

North Carolina forward Jessica McDonald came in as a sub in the 64th minute, her first appearance of the tournament. McDonald was nursing a right thigh injury.

It was the final group match of the eight-team tournament. Results of the opening stage determined seeding for the knockout round.

The league’s ninth team, the Orlando Pride, withdrew from the Challenge Cup before it started after several players tested positive for the coronavirus.

Sky Blue finished the opening stage 1-2-1 and in seventh place.

The seventh-seeded Sky Blue will play the Washington Spirit in the quarter-finals.

WATCH | Canada’s Sheridan clutch kick save:

Kailen Sheridan from Whitby, Ont., comes up with a big stop on Crystal Dunn of North Carolina Courage. 0:38

Sinclair’s Thorns finish group stage winless

The Portland Thorns will face top-seeded North Carolina in the quarter-finals of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup after wrapping up the group stage with a scoreless draw with the rival OL Reign on Monday.

The Thorns were winless in the opening round to finish last among the eight teams playing in the tournament, which was wrapping up group stage matches Monday.

Sophia Huerta, acquired by the Reign in the off-season, made her first start and had one of the team’s best chances late in the first half. Taylor Smith was open in the 61st minute but her shot went wide.

WATCH | Reign, Thorns play to scoreless draw:

Christine Sinclair from Burnaby, B.C. led the attack for the Portland Thorns but they were unable to score in a 0-0 draw against OL Reign FC. 1:43

Portland controlled possession for most of the first half but Reign goalkeeper Michelle Betos saved attempts from both Christine Sinclair and rookie Morgan Weaver. Raquel Rodriguez got a long-range shot from the top of the box in the final minute of regulation but Betos scooped it up.

The Reign saw the return of Jessica Fishlock, who hadn’t played since last season because of an ACL injury. She came in as a sub in the 72nd minute.

Lindsey Horan did not play for the Thorns after scoring in the team’s last game, a 1-1 draw with the Washington Spirit.

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