NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: Matchday 4

In the morning, Utah Royals FC secured a 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC before Houston Dash provided some Fourth of July fireworks in a 2-0 NWSL Challenge Cup win over OL Reign.

Utah Royals FC 1, Sky Blue FC 0

It only took one goal from the hosts to get past Sky Blue FC yesterday. Vero Boquete found Amy Rodriguez running in behind the defense late in the first half and the star striker converted for Utah Royals FC.

Sky Blue FC could only manage three total shots and zero on target while Utah finished with 14 shots (four on goal).

Freya Coombe added a little bit of energy and danger to the attack in the second half when she brought on Ifeoma Onumonu and Jennifer Cudjoe. But, neither substitute could do enough to help Sky Blue score their first goal of the tournament.

Quick Kicks

  • It’s probably fair to say that Sky Blue FC is the least dangerous team in the NWSL Challenge Cup. Their forwards have been largely isolated up top with little service or chances to run in behind. Also, their best player going forward is playing as a defender…
  • That major storyline for SBFC continues to be Midge Purce playing at right-back. After the match, she expressed that she’s disappointed in herself for not providing more crosses, goals, or assists rather than being frustrated to be playing back there. When she gets a chance to get forward, she immediately pressures the opposing backline and drew a foul on the edge of the box yesterday. Why not adjust and get more of those moments in a match?
  • Utah will be happy with the win but probably a bit frustrated that they could only break down Sky Blue for one goal.

BGN Player of the Match: Vero Boquete

The Spanish playmaker had some pinpoint through balls yesterday, especially in the first half of Utah’s second NWSL Challenge Cup match. After a couple of them went by the wayside, A-Rod finally converted one to give Vero her assist. Post-match, the midfielder said she saw some space around Sky Blue’s number six and tried to take advantage of that with long passes. Boquete also drew three fouls.

Houston Dash 2, OL Reign 0

For the second straight match to start the tournament, OL Reign were blanked in front of goal. But, this time, they couldn’t keep a clean sheet of their own and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Houston Dash.

Early in the first half, Shea Groom had a lovely backheel pass to set up Kristie Mewis for the opening goal. To put the match away in the second half, Groom floated in the box to head home a Rachel Daly cross.

OL Reign finished with zero of their eight shots going on frame.

Quick Kicks

  • Without stars Megan Rapinoe, who opted out of the NWSL Challenge Cup, and Jess Fishlock, who is working her way back from injury, OL Reign are struggling for an identity.
  • It’s not a regular season, so Houston won’t get the accomplishment of making the playoffs for the first time, but they are certainly an improved side and have been fun to watch with five goals in two matches.

BGN Player of the Match: Shea Groom

An offseason acquisition from Reign, Groom is proving to be a crucial player for her new team. She had a backheel assist on Mewis’ goal and then added her own in the second half when she skied for a header. She won three fouls and finished with two total shots.

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.