Fresh off her breakthrough performance in the National Women’s Soccer League’s opening game of the Challenge Cup tournament, Durango’s Lauren Milliet earned her first start Wednesday night.
Milliet, a 2015 Durango High School graduate and second-year NWSL pro for the two-time defending champion North Carolina Courage, helped her side to a 2-0 victory Wednesday night against Washington Spirit at Zions Banks Stadium in Herriman, Utah.
“Getting the start was awesome,” Milliet said. “My first career NWSL start was a really good feather in my cap.”
Lynn Williams, who scored the game-winning goal for the Courage in a 2-1 win against Portland Thorns FC in the opening game of the tournament, scored twice more Wednesday. She has 50 career NWSL goals, but goals scored in the Challenge Cup won’t count toward career statistics for players.
Williams’ first goal came unassisted in the 50th minute after she fought to earn possession of the ball and drove up the right side of the field and cut into the box and blasted a left-footed shot past Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Her second, again off the left boot, came in the 61st minute off an assist on a crossing pass from Brazil’s Debinha, who now has one goal and an assist in this Challenge Cup, a month-long tournament that made the NWSL the first team sports organization to resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Milliet checked out in the 68th minute after she played a solid match all night. She has now been on the field for all four of the Courage’s goals this tournament.
The Courage and Spirit entered the match with three points each in the table during the qualification round. The Courage now have a commanding lead with six points. The Spirit remained second with three, while the other six teams all had one point each thanks to draws.
“The six points also feel really good,” Milliet said. “I think the biggest thing for our team was trying to improve the performance from Game 1 to Game 2, and I thought we did really step it up.”
Milliet has now been successful in 83.3% of her duels with an opposing player this tournament. She has completed 80.6% of her passes, including 80% of her long passes. She has not registered a shot, but she has drawn two fouls.
The Courage (2-0-0) will be back in action at 10:30 a.m. Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars (0-1-1) in a rematch of last year’s NWSL championship game. The team will then have a well-earned break before a 8 p.m. July 13 match against Sky Blue FC to close out the qualification round of the tournament.