NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Matchday 4

A Fourth of July doubleheader for the NWSL Challenge Cup tomorrow as all four clubs from Matchday 2 look to get their first wins. Sky Blue FC take on the hosts, Utah Royals FC, while the Houston Dash try to keep their goalscoring stride against OL Reign.

Sky Blue FC vs. Utah Royals FC

Utah Royals FC will look to keep their scoring momentum going from their second half vs. Houston. Vero Boquete buried a free kick and rookie Tziarra King provided the equalizer in her NWSL debut.

For Sky Blue FC, there wasn’t much to speak of in the attack vs. OL Reign. They had the chance that was blocked by Lauren Barnes, but they need more from their forwards or a move from Midge Purce from right-back to an attacking position.

2019 Head-to-Head Results

6/15/19: Utah Royals FC 1, Sky Blue FC 0

The only score in this match was a long-distance blast from Amy Rodriguez. Sky Blue FC couldn’t convert 17 shots and an edge in possession into a goal on the road.

7/12/19: Sky Blue FC 1, Utah Royals FC 0

Jen Hoy scored a stoppage-time winner for Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. This was a second consecutive win for Sky Blue, their first two-match winning streak since 2017.

8/7/19: Utah Royals FC 3, Sky Blue FC 0

After two close matches, this was a lopsided win for Royals FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. The hosts tallied 23 shots, 12 on target, and six corner kicks. Christen Press scored twice in the first half and A-Rod added the third in the second half.

Player to Watch

Sky Blue

Ifeoma Onumonu: After being shutout in their opener vs. OL Reign, Onumonu will likely be relied upon again up top. She didn’t manage any shots on goal and will need to make a bigger impact to get Sky Blue on track offensively.


Lo’eau LaBonta: It was her perfect ball through the defense that set up Utah’s first goal vs. Houston. In total, She completed 38 passes and made two tackles vs. the Dash and could be vital in breaking down the Sky Blue backline.

Injury Report

Sky Blue

OUT: Dydasco, Lloyd, Pugh, Tiernan



OUT: O’Hara, Scott (personal)

Houston Dash vs. OL Reign

Injuries will play a big part in this one. After substituting off after tweaking her groin, Rachel Daly is listed as questionable for this one. For OL Reign, they will be missing Jess Fishlock, Sofia Huerta, and Kelcie Hedge, who tore her ACL in training.

Whether Daly can go or not, other players will need to step up in the Houston attack if they want to build on their opening draw. Kailen Sheridan kept Reign off the board in their 0-0 stalemate and will look to break through in the nightcap tomorrow.

2019 Head-to-Head Results

4/14/19: Houston Dash 1, Reign FC 1

In the opening match of the season, Nichelle Prince put Houston up early with a 10th-minute goal and Jane Campbell saved them, pun intended, late. After Jodie Taylor scored an equalizer in the second half, she had a chance to win it for Reign FC in stoppage time. She drew a foul on the Dash goalkeeper, but her shot from the penalty spot was saved.

6/2/19: Reign FC 1, Houston Dash 1

This one came down to some late action again. Bethany Balcer scored in the first half for Reign FC, but Campbell made six saves to keep the match close. Houston found their equalizer in the 90th minute as Christine Nairn scored from outside the box.

8/2/19: Reign FC 1, Houston Dash 0

In her second match with the club, New Zealand international Rosie White scored the lone goal in a Reign FC away win and Casey Murphy kept a clean sheet.

Player to Watch


Katie Stengel: After making her Houston debut earlier this week, Stengel may be relied upon even more if Rachel Daly can’t play or isn’t at 100%. She’s proven in the NWSL and will need to step up for H-Town.

OL Reign

Shirley Cruz: The Costa Rican star has the ability to change a game from the midfield with composure on the ball and long passes. She made four tackles against Sky Blue FC in her NWSL debut and will need to step up her efficiency going forward after zero key passes and 23/29 passing.

Injury Report


OUT: Prince (personal)


OL Reign

OUT: Fishlock, Hedge, Huerta


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.