NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: Matchday 7

The Sunday slate in the NWSL Challenge Cup ended with 1-0 victories for both Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars while giving Houston Dash and Utah Royals FC back-to-back losses.

Washington Spirit 1, Houston Dash 0

A well-rested Washington Spirit side got on the board early as Ashley Hatch set up Bayley Feist for her goal from just outside the area. That would be the only shot to beat Jane Campbell, who made six saves on the day.

Rachel Daly almost equalized for Houston as her left-footed shot glanced off the cross bar shortly before halftime. Daly and Katie Stengel constantly made runs in behind to try and find an equalizer for James Clarkson’s side.

A good chunk of the second half had Washington on their heels as the Dash pressed to level the match, but Aubrey Bledsoe and the Spirit (including Paige Nielsen, who had a headed clearance of a Stengel shot) kept the clean sheet and finish round-robin play with seven points (currently in 2nd before Matchday 8’s results). The Dash finish with four points in a tie for third on the table.

Quick Kicks

  • Houston were looking like a surprise side in this NWSL tournament, flying high and scoring five times in their first two matches. But, they have zero goals from their last two matches, both losses.
  • Andi Sullivan had to leave the match with a leg injury and Richie Burke explained after the match that it’s likely related to a reoccurring meniscus issue. He was hopeful she will be back by the weekend, but it will be a big blow if she’s not able to go. (UPDATE: Sullivan tore her meniscus and will miss the remainder of the tournament)
  • Listed as questionable pre-match with an ankle injury, Rose Lavelle sat this one out and will be relied upon even heavier if Sullivan isn’t 100% in the knockout stage.

BGN Player of the Match: Bayley Feist

She scored the lone goal in this one and registered five shots (three on target).

Chicago Red Stars 1, Utah Royals FC 0

In their final chance in the preliminary stage, the Red Stars finally got their win of the NWSL Challenge Cup. Playing against a rotated starting XI for Utah, Chicago played a good bit of this match on the front foot. Kealia Watt applied the pressure, running in behind the Royals FC backline.

But, the winning goal did not come early. With a scoreless draw looking likely in the final ten minutes of the match, a floating cross from Savannah McCaskill was headed home by Casey Short in the 85th minute.

With the win, Chicago moves into the five-way tie for third place with four points, which also includes Utah.

Quick Kicks

  • Similar to Houston, the last two matches for Utah have been a stark contrast to their first two. They rotated their lineup heavily in this fixture, but they will need to get that early-tournament form back with knockout soccer ahead.
  • Unfortunately, Chicago may be without Yuki Nagasato for the duration of the NWSL Challenge Cup. She was an unused substitute in this one after appearing on the injury list and Rory Dames indicated she might get shut down for the summer.
  • Other injury news as Morgan Gautrat limped off after running into Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith late in the first half. According to Dames, she could have stayed on but no need to risk it.

BGN Player of the Match: Casey Short

The Red Stars left-back scored the winner in the 85th minute. She finished with two shots on target and tackle.

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.