NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: Matchday 5

North Carolina Courage 1, Chicago Red Stars 0

With the way this NWSL Challenge Cup gone so far, it just seems like the North Carolina Courage are going to win the match at some point. They scored the late winner vs. Portland in their opener and had two second-half goals to beat Washington. Then, in a scoreless tie after 80 minutes yesterday, Jaelene Daniels sends in a lovely cross on the first touch after a short corner kick and Abby Erceg heads home the lone goal of the match for another NC win.

Before that goal, Chicago had arguably the best chance of the match. Kealia Watt forced a turnover in the defensive half by North Carolina and had a chance to put the Courage behind for the first time in the tournament. But, her breakaway chance was turned away by Katelyn Rowland.

The Courage now sit on nine points after three matches and Chicago only has one point from their 0-0 draw vs. Portland.

Quick Kicks

  • Julie Ertz was world-class on the backline as she made six tackles, cleared the ball well, and connected on over 80% of her passes.
  • One of the biggest tackles from Ertz came on Lynn Williams in the penalty area. After her brace vs. Washington, Williams tallied seven shots but only one on target.
  • Getting the start in place of Stephanie Labbe, Rowland’s save was a massive one to help the reigning NWSL champions secure win #3.

BGN Player of the Match: Jaelene Daniels

The Courage left-back continued her good tournament form vs. Chicago, defensively and pushing up the left flank. Daniels had the picture-perfect assist on Erceg’s game-winning goal, won two fouls, and did well to work her way towards the endline with dribbling ability and quickness.

Portland Thorns FC 1, Washington Spirit 1

This was a fun NWSL match to close out the long, holiday weekend. It was a matchup of a perennial power in Portland that has underperformed so far in the tournament and Washington that are considered one of the clubs trending up this summer.

Portland opened the scoring in the second half from a set piece. Meghan Klingenberg’s cross found a diving Lindsey Horan, who headed the ball past Aubrey Bledsoe. That goal came after she put the ball in the net on a header in the first half that was waved off due to a foul on the Thorns midfielder.

Less than ten minutes later, the Spirit equalized in an eye-catching fashion. On a corner kick, rookie Ashley Sanchez was somehow able to direct a backheel in the air to Sam Staab and defender’s header beat Bella Bixby.

In the final minutes of the match, Horan almost secured a brace and three points for the Thorns, but her effort was turned away by the 2019 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.

Quick Kicks

  • This was an evenly matched, fun fixture last night. While Portland had a decent edge in possession, most of the other stats were very similar.
  • With the draw, Washington moves into a three-way tie in second place with four points.
  • Portland, who entered the tournament with the third-best odds to win the title, have only taken two points from three matches.

BGN Player of the Match: Lindsey Horan

On a team that hasn’t played to its potential, Horan has been as good as advertised in every match. According to Portland soccer “Stat Man” Mike Donovan, she led the Thorns in goals, shots, shots on goal, chances created, passes, completed passes, duels, duels won, aerial duels, aerial duels won, and fouls earned. That is a ridiculous list that is an acknowledgment of how great Horan is and an indictment of the rest of the club’s performance.

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.