NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Matchday 6

Some midweek NWSL Challenge Cup action kicks off with the hosting Utah Royals FC trying to make it two straight wins when they face the goal-less OL Reign. Sky Blue FC will also be looking for their first goal when they take on the surprisingly explosive Houston Dash.

OL Reign vs. Utah Royals FC

Utah Royals FC will look to make it back-to-back wins after they snuck by Sky Blue FC over the weekend. Amy Rodriguez got on the end of a Vero Boquete through ball and scored the lone goal of the match.

For OL Reign, they are still looking for their first goal of the NWSL Challenge Cup and they put zero shots on target vs. Houston Dash. The club needs a plan in the attack without staples like Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock.

2019 Head-to-Head Results

6/28/19: Reign FC 2, Utah Royals FC 0

This match featured a couple of firsts and a major injury for Reign FC. Ifeoma Onumonu scored her first NWSL goal and Bethany Balcer registered her first career assist on Jess Fishlock’s goal. Unfortunately, Fishlock would tear her ACL in this match and miss the remainder of the season, not making her return to the pitch yet.

8/11/19: Utah Royals FC 3, Reign FC 1

Katie Stengel scored in the third minute for Utah before Shea Groom equalized for Reign FC. In the second half, Lo’eau LaBonta and Amy Rodriguez scored to give Royals FC a decisive away win in Tacoma.

9/25/19: Reign FC 2, Utah Royals FC 1

With major playoff implications down the stretch, Reign FC took an important three points in this one to move ahead of Utah on the NWSL table. Balcer and Jodie Taylor scored for Reign with a Stengel goal sandwiched between them.

Player to Watch

OL Reign

Jodie Taylor: Still with zero goals in the tournament, OL Reign will be relying on their veteran English forward to get going offensively. She has zero shots in two appearances and needs to make an impact vs. Utah.

Utah Royals FC

Amy Rodriguez: After an assist in their opener, A-Rod registered the match-winning goal vs. Sky Blue FC. She’s been great running in behind the defense during the tournament and will try to break down the OL Reign defense.

Injury Report

OL Reign

OUT: Fishlock, Hedge, Huerta

QUESTIONABLE: Andrews

Utah Royals FC

OUT: Desiree Scott (personal)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Houston Dash vs. Sky Blue FC

Not many expected the Houston Dash to be “the most enjoyable team to watch” as Kim McCauley wrote for All for XI. But, with great play from Shea Groom, Kristie Mewis, and Rachel Daly, James Clarkson’s side is riding high.

If the Dash are riding high, Sky Blue FC is sinking low. They can’t seem to get anything going in the attacking third, zero goals in two matches, and the frustration on the outside is mounting as Midge Purce’s impact is being nullified as a right-back.

2019 Head-to-Head Results

4/20/19: Houston Dash 1, Sky Blue FC 0

The Dash went on the road and had to overcome a monstrous performance from Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and a penalty kick in the first half. Carli Lloyd’s penalty went wide vs. her former club and Sofia Huerta’s late goal was the only ball that got past Sheridan, who made ten saves on the day.

7/28/19: Houston Dash 1, Sky Blue FC 0

After a couple of close calls in the first half, including hitting the post, Rachel Daly finally got her goal in the 22nd minute to give Houston a home win. They held Sky Blue FC to zero shots on goal.

8/24/19: Sky Blue FC 2, Houston Dash 1

Lloyd scored twice in the first half to give Sky Blue FC a big away win. Sheridan made six saves to keep Houston off the board until Kealia Watt (Ohai) scored a stoppage-time consolation goal.

Player to Watch

Houston

Shea Groom: Coming off a goal and an assist vs. OL Reign, Groom will continue to be a key figure in the upstart Dash attack.

Sky Blue

Ifeoma Onumonu: She was isolated up top in her second half stint vs. Utah Royals FC. If Sky Blue is to break through on the scoreboard, she will likely be the key, either running in behind or getting on the end of a Midge Purce cross.

Injury Report

Houston

OUT: None

QUESTIONABLE: None

Sky Blue

OUT: Dydasco, Lloyd, Tiernan, Wright

QUESTIONABLE: None

Author

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.