As we get closer to a month removed from the first match taking place, we officially have our NWSL Challenge Cup Final matchup. Yesterday, the Houston Dash slipped past Portland Thorns FC and the Chicago Red Stars help on for a 3-2 win over Sky Blue FC.
Houston Dash 1, Portland Thorns FC 0
Never making the NWSL playoffs since their inception, the Houston Dash are now heading to the NWSL Challenge Cup Final on Sunday. But, they had to work their way past Portland first. After some close calls for both sides, mostly in the second half, the decisive moment came just before the 70th minute.
A corner kick from Kristie Mewis was headed off the crossbar by Sophie Schmidt, but Rachel Daly was there to capitalize as she dove and headed the ball in at the near post. After the match, Daly talked about how good this club is on set pieces and that they should have more goals to show for it. Despite a late push for an equalizer, Tyler Lussi, Morgan Weaver, Christine Sinclair & Co. could not beat Jane Campbell, giving James Clarkson’s Dash a 1-0 semifinals win.
BGN Player of the Match: Rachel Daly
Like Santana Moss once said, “Big-time players step up in big games.” When her club needed her, the Dash star was there for a diving header to send Houston through to the final. She also registered one key pass, made two tackles, and finished with five total shots.
Chicago Red Stars 3, Sky Blue FC 2
After both clubs struggled to score goals the entire NWSL tournament, obviously, they would go on to combine for five goals on Wednesday. With only two goals in their first five matches, the Red Stars pounced on their chances early. Bianca St. Georges had a great touch in the box to get the ball to her left foot and elude a defender before poking the ball past Kailen Sheridan in the 8th minute. It was a floated ball in from St. Georges that was deflected to Rachel Hill, who converted the second goal from close range less than five minutes after the first score.
In the second half, Savannah McCaskill gave Chicago a 3-0 lead when she scored off of a cut-back assist from St. Georges. While a three-goal lead seemed insurmountable, Sky Blue FC came roaring back. Directly in front of Alyssa Naeher, Evelyn Viens got a second header on the ball following a corner kick and pulled one back in the 72nd minute for SBFC. Five minutes later, Midge Purce made an amazing run down the right flank and her ball cut across goal was redirected into the back of the net by Julie Ertz for an own goal. But, there wasn’t an equalizer to be found and Chicago advanced to the NWSL Challenge Cup final.
BGN Player of the Match: Bianca St. Georges
The Chicago right-back was involved in all three goals for the Red Stars. She scored the first goal after a beautiful turn in the box and then sent in the cross that ended up deflecting to Hill for the second. For the third goal, she made a run to the endline and played it back to McCaskill for the match-winner.