HERRIMAN, UTAH - JULY 17: Morgan Weaver #22 of Portland Thorns FC gains control of the ball during the quarterfinal match of the NWSL Challenge Cup at Zions Bank Stadium on July 17, 2020 in Herriman, Utah. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Though goals were hard to come by, the NWSL Challenge Cup continued to produce inspiring soccer throughout the quarterfinals. Here are the top 5 plays from the first round of knockout play.

 

5. WATT DICES UP THE DEFENSE

The Chicago Red Stars’ Kealia Watt cuts up not one, not two, but three defenders in their own box. (Even our ankles are hurting after watching this play.) Watt did everything right, but couldn’t quite finish. Nevertheless, she later nailed her penalty kick, assisting her team in defeating OL Reign 4-3 in PKs after a scoreless draw. Expect Sky Blue to keep their eyes on the dynamic striker during their semifinal clash.

 

4. NAEHER PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS

Somebody should have told Reign they were facing a World Cup champ. Here, Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher effortlessly dives across the goalmouth, pushing away Jess Fishlock’s hard-hitting shot. Naeher then characteristically brushes off her remarkable save and immediately starts giving directions to her teammates for the corner. That’s championship mentality.

 

3. WEAVER SHOCKS THE FAVORITES WITH CLINICAL FINISH

Portland Thorns’ rookie Morgan Weaver is already playing like a vet. Here, she calmly collects Rocky Rodríguez’s diagonal ball and places it in the back of the net. With Weaver cashing in, the Thorn’s upset the number one seed North Carolina and are now on their way to a semifinal bout with Houston.

 

2. WANT GOALS? GO SOMEWHERE ELSE, SAYS SHERIDAN

Sky Blue FC’s Kailen Sheridan currently leads the tournament with 20 saves. Yup, 20. Sheridan played a substantial role in the quarterfinals, boosting Sky Blue to the semifinals as the team knocked off the Washington Spirit 4-3 in penalties. Here, Sheridan flexes her sixth sense as she deflects Ashley Sanchez’s header to keep the score sheet clean. That’s a game-winning, fingertip save.

 

1. ECKERSTROM PUTS AN END TO CAROLINA’S REIGN

This is just one of eight jaw-dropping saves Britt Eckerstrom made in her tournament debut. Announcer Mike Watts described the Portland Thorns’ keeper’s effort as “one of the great goalkeeping performances in league history,” and we agree. Here, Eckerstrom attacks Debinha’s shot, diving to push the ball safely to the side.

To take down a giant, you need heroic performances from unexpected players. Eckerstrom did just that, and her performance may have been the highlight of the tournament so far. She kept a clean slate, and in doing so, helped dethrone the reigning 2x NWSL champs while securing Portland its first win of the tournament and, more importantly, a spot in the semifinals.