NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: June 27, June 30 & July 1

NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: June 27, June 30 & July 1

This past Saturday saw the kick off of the NWSL Challenge Cup, with two 2-1 score lines to finish out the first match day of the tournament. 

Yes, we went 0-2 on our first day as a stan account.

The two-time defending NWSL Champion North Carolina Courage knocked off the Portland Thorns 2-1 in the opening contest, followed by the Washington Spirit taking down the Chicago Red Stars by the same score in the nightcap. 

The last two days saw four more matches of the NWSL Challenge Cup take place with all eight teams taking the field. The slate resulted in three consecutive draws and another victory for the North Carolina Courage late Wednesday night.

Our stan saw us garner three points from the days’ contests. Be sure to continue casting your vote and follow @ORLPride on Twitter and also follow the Club’s pages on Instagram and Facebook. Friendly reminder that we cannot be held responsible for your decisions, so choose wisely. 


North Carolina Courage 2, Portland Thorns 1
The first match of the tournament saw the NWSL Champion North Carolina Courage take down the Portland Thorns thanks to a stoppage time game-winner from Lynn Williams.

The two sides went in scoreless at the half, a combination of a relatively slow start for both sides as expected following a minimal preseason and a resounding effort from Thorns rookie goalkeeper Bella Bixby to keep the Courage out of the back of the net. 

North Carolina struck first however in the 75th minute, with newcomer Hailie Mace wasting no time contributing in her Courage debut. Mace crossed a ball in from the right side to find the head of Debinha making a run across the face of goal, who hit the ball past Bixby for the finish.

The Thorns responded just five minutes later with Lindsey Horan hitting the woodwork for the second time on the afternoon. Horan’s header bounced off the crossbar, with North Carolina goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé unable to collect the rebound. Thorns forward Simone Charley was there to finish it off, poking the ball into the back of the net.

The match looked destined to end in a deadlock late into stoppage time until former NWSL Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams got on the end of a cross from midfielder Samantha Mewis. The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion found Williams on her own island in the box, who hammered it home with her head into the back of the net to give the Courage all three points from the contest. 


Washington Spirit 2, Chicago Red Stars 1
There’s only one takeaway from this match for those that didn’t know - Rose Lavelle is very good at soccer. 

Last summer’s breakout star at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup put on quite the show on Saturday, wasting no time getting going with a finish in the 10th minute. Lavelle won the ball at midfield and continued to drive up the middle of the pitch before sliding a ball in behind the Chicago defense for Ashley Hatch. Hatch’s shot hit right off Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, with the rebound falling to a sprinting Lavelle in the center of the area, who fired it home. 

The Spirit doubled their lead just 30 seconds into the second half, with Naeher mishandling a back pass and Hatch providing pressure, tackling the ball away from Naeher and slotting the ball into the back of the net. 

The Red Stars got one back in the 51st thanks to a finish from Morgan Gautrat - formerly known as Morgan Brian. A deflection off a ball from Vanessa DiBernardo fell right to Gautrat, who knocked it into the bottom left corner past Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. However, the rally came up short, giving the Spirit the three points on the night. 


Tuesday, June 30

Houston Dash 3, Utah Royals FC 3
Tuesday’s early match resulted in a six-goal thriller with the Utah Royals coming back from two goals down to salvage a point against the Houston Dash at Zions Bank Stadium. The tournament hosts’ opened the scoring in the 35th minute with Lo’eau Labonta sliding a through ball down the right flank for Amy Rodriguez, who crossed a ball into the box that found the foot of Diana Matheson for the finish. 

The Dash bounced back quickly however, with English international forward Rachel Daly finding the back of the net in first half stoppage time and again just two minutes into the second half. Newcomer Shea Groom doubled the Dash’s advantage in the 67th minute, firing home a layoff from former Utah forward Katie Stengel. 

In a game that looked wrapped up to be a Dash victory, the Royals were able to cut the advantage in half in the 82nd minute with Vero curling a free kick around the Houston wall into the lower right corner of the net. Seven minutes later, 2020 College Draft pick Tziarra King headed home another free kick from Vero to level the score in her professional debut. 


OL Reign 0, Sky Blue FC 0
Tuesday’s early matchup clearly took all the goals for the day, with the nightcap resulting in a scoreless draw between OL Reign and Sky Blue FC. Prior to the match, OL Reign issued a powerful video on their club channels addressing the social injustice in our country. It’s must-see TV.

Shifting to the competition, both sides were unable to get going on the offensive with goalkeepers Casey Murphy and Kailen Sheridan registering just two and four saves respectively to secure clean sheets. Midfielder McCall Zerboni was all over the pitch for Sky Blue, wasting no time getting going at her new club, while forward Darian Jenkins was able to fire off four shots in the match to lead the Reign attack. 

The sides will now turn their attention to their respective July 4 matchups, with Sky Blue set to take on the Houston Dash at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Zions Bank Stadium, while OL Reign will face off against the Houston Dash at 10 p.m. ET. Both matches will be available to stream live on CBS All Access. 


Wednesday, July 1

Portland Thorns FC 0, Chicago Red Stars 0
The first of two midweek matchups resulted in yet another scoreless stalemate with both sides featuring lineups that looked much different from their opening fixtures. The Red Stars kept all five of their Federation players on the sideline, as well as their 2019 assists leader Yuki Nagasato and forward Kealia Watt. On the other side, the Thorns were without U.S. WNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn and first-overall College Draft selection Sophia Smith. 

Both goalkeepers again put in a solid performance to maintain the clean sheet on the afternoon. Rookie Bella Bixby maintained her form from her NWSL debut, shown by the stop below, while the Red Stars rotated goalkeepers with Emily Boyd starting the match and former FSU standout Cassie Miller subbing it at halftime.

Midfielder Savannah McCaskill led the attack for the Red Stars in the match, registering three shots for Chicago, while U.S. WNT midfielder Lindsey Horan spearheaded the offense for the Thorns with four shots and one on target. The Thorns nearly secured a victory late, with Autumn Smithers’ shot hitting off the crossbar in the 94th minute.


North Carolina 2, Washington 0
Wednesday’s late match resulted in the Courage doing what the Courage do, shutting out Washington with a 2-0 victory on the night. Following a scoreless first half, the Courage made three substitutes at halftime, setting the tone for the second 45 by bringing in U.S. WNT members Crystal Dunn and Samantha Mewis, along with Denise O’Sullivan. 

The changes would pay off for Paul Riley, as Lynn Williams found the back of the net twice in the 50th and 61st minutes respectively to secure the three points for the Courage. North Carolina now sits alone at the top of the table with six points. 

The two sides will look ahead to their third matchups of the tournament on Sunday with North Carolina scheduled to take on the Chicago Red Stars at 12:30 p.m. ET and the Spirit slated for a 10 p.m. ET match against the Portland Thorns. Both matches will take place at Zions Bank Stadium and be available to stream on CBS All Access.

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UPDATE: June 10, 2020 - Major League Soccer announced it will restart the 2020 season with all 26 MLS clubs competing in the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida beginning July 8. Upon completion of the tournament, MLS plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets. The revised schedule may see certain matches from the original 2020 MLS regular season schedule being cancelled or rescheduled. The final number of matches and the schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season and related ticket policies will be announced in the coming weeks.