NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Matchday 7
The NWSL Challenge Cup returns in the first action since Wednesday when the Houston Dash and Washington Spirit start off the Sunday slate, followed by the Chicago Red Stars facing Utah Royals FC.
Houston Dash vs. Washington Spirit
After a loss against Sky Blue FC, Houston will look to get back to business vs. the Spirit. Tied for the most goals and leading in assists in the tournament, the Dash were blanked by Sky Blue and didn’t look like the same side as their exciting first two matches.
The Spirit come into this match after a 1-1 draw vs. Portland that saw rookie Ashley Sanchez‘s backheel assist off a corner kick go viral. Like their opponent tomorrow, they exceeded expectations early in the Challenge Cup and will want to close out round-robin play on a high note.
2019 Head-to-Head Results
6/22/19: Washington Spirit 0, Houston Dash 0
Playing at home, Washington controlled the match with 64% possession and 12 shots but couldn’t find a winner. The Dash struggled to create in the attack, getting caught offside four times and registering zero shots on goal.
7/20/19: Houston Dash 2, Washington Spirit 1
This one really came to life following a lightning delay after halftime. Jordan DiBiasi scored in the 52nd minute before Kristie Mewis and Amber Brooks found the net to push Houston ahead. With the match entering stoppage time, Mallory Pugh had a chance to equalize from the penalty spot, but Jane Campbell did what she always does and kept it out to preserve the win.
9/25/19: Houston Dash 0, Washington Spirit 0
Just like their first matchup of 2019, this match finished scoreless. But, that’s not to say there weren’t any good chances. Mewis had a shot deflected off the crossbar and a late chance that forced Andi Sullivan into a goal-line clearance.
Player to Watch
Kristie Mewis: With both Rose Lavelle and Jordan DiBiasi battling injuries, Mewis could help control the middle of the pitch. She can get forward (one goal and an assist), but she’s also done her duty well defensively (five tackles won and six interceptions).
Ashley Sanchez: Coming off the highlight assist of the tournament, the rookie out of UCLA will be expected to continue to push the ball forward and create opportunities in the final third.
🇺🇸 Ashley Sanchez has perfected the near-post flick on. pic.twitter.com/IJ9Hzf76MK
— FotMob (@FotMob) July 6, 2020
OUT: DiBiasi (hip), Scarpa (adductor)
QUESTIONABLE: Lavelle (ankle)
Chicago Red Stars vs. Utah Royals FC
Last season, Chicago lost in the NWSL final vs. North Carolina Courage. This summer, they sit at the bottom of the table and are the only club with two losses so far. With a tournament-fewest four shots on goal, the Red Stars attack is struggling without Sam Kerr and need a special performance from marquee offseason acquisition Kealia Watt or 2019 NWSL assists leader Yuki Nagasato.
Utah has benefitted from a solid connection between Amy Rodriguez and Vero Boquete. The Royals are tied for the tournament-high in shots and they will look to break out after a 1-0 loss vs. OL Reign.
"Another picture perfect run by A-Rod!"
Vero connects with Amy Rodriguez on a magnificent pass to put @UtahRoyalsFC up 1! pic.twitter.com/JNHVDKglFs
— CBS Sports Soccer (@CBSSportsSoccer) July 4, 2020
2019 Head-to-Head Results
5/3/19: Utah Royals FC 1, Chicago Red Stars 0
Royals FC continued a quality start to the season with a home win vs. Chicago. Amy Rodriguez scored the lone goal late in the second half and Nicole Barnhart recorded her third straight clean sheet to start the season.
8/3/19: Chicago Red Stars 2, Utah Royals FC 0
Opposite of their last meeting, Chicago was in good form this time and extended that vs. Utah. The Red Stars won their fourth consecutive match with goals from Sam Kerr and Brooke Elby.
9/28/19: Chicago Red Stars 2, Utah Royals FC 1
Christen Press scored in the 42nd minute to equalize after Vanessa DiBernardo’s goal just two minutes prior. In the 85th minute, Yuki Nagasato put home the winner for the Red Stars.
Player to Watch
Yuki Nagasato: After putting up big numbers last season playing with Sam Kerr, Nagasato has been limited to one shot and zero key passes this summer. She needs to be assertive and try to make an impact, despite battling a leg injury.
Vero Boquete: The Spanish star is the only player with more than once assist in the NWSL Challenge Cup. She will look to slice passes through to A-Rod or the other attackers and is always dangerous on set pieces (one free-kick goal this tournament).
OUT: Mautz (knee), Wright (postpartum)
QUESTIONABLE: Nagasato (leg), Colaprico (ankle), Davidson (leg)
OUT: Scott (Personal)