NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Matchday 3

All four clubs that played on opening day of the NWSL Challenge Cup return to action today as Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns FC face off early before North Carolina Courage take on Washington Spirit.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Portland Thorns

Both clubs took losses on Saturday, but neither side was completely outplayed in defeat. For Chicago, they had an early lapse in defense as Rose Lavelle opened the scoring and Alyssa Naeher’s giveaway led to the second Washington goal. They struggled to get enough players in the box and their width in the attack was wasted without a target receiving the ball in the area. Morgan Gautrat scored the lone goal for Chicago in the 2-1 loss.

Portland had things level with the two-time reigning NWSL champs into stoppage time, but they couldn’t stop a Lynn Williams’ winner. Unsurprisingly, Lindsey Horan was the star of the show in that match for the Thorns, finishing with 75 touches and 81% passing accuracy.

2019 Head-to-Head Results

4/20/19: Portland Thorns 4, Chicago Red Stars 4

If we can get a similar result like this in today’s match, we will all be happy! Christine Sinclair scored a hat trick and Yugi Nakasato countered with a brace for Chicago, including a 90-minute equalizer.

6/2/19: Portland Thorns 3, Chicago Red Stars 0

Midge Purce scored twice in the first half for the Thorns with Simone Charley assisting on both goals. Marissa Everett added a late goal to seal the deal. The shocking stat of this match was that Chicago finished with 29 shots but no goals.

8/25/19: Portland Thorns 3, Chicago Red Stars 0

Just like the previous meeting, Purce bagged a brace for the Thorns. Sinclair scored the opening goal that day and Portland finished with nine shots on target. It was another day of high possibility with no end result as the Red Stars had 37 crosses and 17 shots

10/20/19: Chicago Red Stars 1, Portland Thorns 0

The only time the Red Stars defeated Portland in 2019 was the match that mattered most. In the NWSL semifinal, Sam Kerr scored in the 8th minute and Chicago held on to upset the Thorns and advance to the NWSL final.

Player to Watch


Katie Johnson: Listed as the projected starter at forward, Johnson’s ability to get on the end of crosses and involved in the attack will be vital for Chicago’s success.


Christine Sinclair: With four goals against Chicago last season, Sinclair will have to be on the top of the Red Stars’ radar for tonight.

Injury Report


OUT: Mautz, Wright

QUESTIONABLE: Colaprico, Davidson, Redei


OUT: Franch, Reynolds, Sauerbrunn, Smith

NC Courage vs. Washington Spirit

Could these be the two top NWSL teams in this summer’s tournament? Both came away with 2-1 wins on opening day and they looked good doing so. North Carolina opened the tournament, as reigning two-time league champions, with a goal from each of their two stars in the attack: Debinha and Lynn Williams.

For Washington, a healthy Rose Lavelle looked like the best player on the pitch in the win over Chicago. She combined well with Ashley Hatch and was able to knock home a rebound from a shot by Hatch. The BYU forward would score her own goal in the second half as she pressed Alyssa Naeher into a mistake and poked the ball home.

2019 Head-to-Head Results

6/29/19: North Carolina Courage 2, Washington Spirit 1

In her first match back from the World Cup, Debinha scored the opening goal for North Carolina, drawing a foul in the box, and putting home a rebound of her saved attempt from the penalty spot. Leah Pruitt added the second goal before Crystal Thomas scored late for Washington.

8/3/19: North Carolina Courage 1, Washington Spirit 0

Paige Nielsen was shown a 24th-minute red card for a somewhat soft foul on Debinha as the Brazilian was on the edge of the box. The Spirit held on for the 40 minutes, but they would concede to Debinha in the 64th minute.

9/28/19: Washington Spirit 2, North Carolina Courage 1

Lynn Williams opened the scoring just after halftime in Maryland. But, Mallory Pugh was able to equalize in the 75th minute before Rose Lavelle found the winner in the 84th minute. That was North Carolina’s only loss in their last eight regular-season matches and they finished the match with 27 shots (nine on target).

Player to Watch

North Carolina

Debinha: She scored twice vs. Washington last season and once in the opener of this summer’s tournament. Especially in the first half vs. Portland, the Brazilian dynamo was able to cause problems, pushing forward with the ball at her feet.


Rose Lavelle: Saturday’s Player of the Match will be relied upon to help her defenders break down the Courage’s press and get the ball into the attack. If the Spirit score an upset win, you can bet that Lavelle played a central role.

Injury Report

North Carolina

OUT: Mathias, McDonald, Watt


OUT: Thomas

Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.