NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: July 8

NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: July 8

We have a midweek doubleheader for you, with four teams scheduled to take the field at Zions Bank Stadium on Wednesday as the NWSL Challenge Cup rolls on.

All sides remain looking up at the North Carolina Courage, who sit atop the table with nine points. The Dash, Royals and Spirit are tied for second with four points apiece, while Portland sits in fifth with two and Sky Blue, OL Reign and Chicago all in a three-way tie for sixth with a single point each. 

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Utah Royals FC vs. OL Reign (12:30 p.m. ET, CBS All Access)
The Utah Royals will look to remain undefeated through Challenge Cup play when they take on OL Reign Wednesday afternoon. The Royals enter the match following a 1-0 victory over Sky Blue on Saturday, with superwoman herself Amy Rodriguez accounting for the lone finish in the contest. Utah has now scored four goals through their first two matches after coming back from a 3-1 deficit to draw the Dash in their opening fixture.

The lone question with the Royals is their defense. While they earned a shutout on Saturday, Sky Blue’s offense didn’t make them work very hard, registering just three shots in the match and none on frame. If the Reign offense can get going, it’ll be interesting to see if the Royals backline can hold up after giving up three goals to the Dash in their opener.

Shifting to the Reign, there remains a lot of question marks. Despite having one of the most talented rosters on paper in the tournament, the Tacoma-based side has yet to find the back of the net through its first two contests. Midfielder Rosie White led the Reign in shots in their last match against the Dash, the only player able to strike more than once on the night with two to her credit.

Moral of the story, the Reign are in a must-win situation if they hope to improve their seeding for the knockout round, with just one point to show for their first two matches. 

Following Wednesday’s contest, Utah will close out their preliminary fixtures on Sunday, July 12, set to take on the Chicago Red Stars at 10 p.m. ET, while the Reign will face the Portland Thorns on Monday, July 13 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Both matches will be available to stream on CBS All Access.


Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash (10 p.m. ET, CBS All Access)
The nightcap will see Sky Blue FC take on the Houston Dash at Zions Bank Stadium.

Sky Blue is very much in the same boat as the Reign, with one point through two contests and no balls in the back of the net. The New Jersey-based side has not been able to create effectively, with just two shots on frame through two matches. If they wish to earn a result against the Dash on Wednesday, they’ll likely need to change that narrative. 

McCall Zerboni was immense for Sky Blue in their first match against the Reign, but Head Coach Freya Coombe opted to rest her this past Saturday. With her fresh legs, Sky Blue should be able to find their way into the offensive third more often. On the other side of the ball, the defense has allowed just one goal, with goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan remaining true to form, sitting just one save shy of the tournament lead with seven. 

The Dash have had anything but issues on the offensive front, tied with North Carolina for the tournament lead in goals scored with five, despite playing one less match. Newcomer Shea Groom has wasted no time getting going with two goals in as many contests, while Houston veteran Rachel Daly has stayed in stride with two goals for her side as well. 

After giving up a 3-1 lead to the Royals in their tournament opener, the Dash defense shut out the OL Reign on Saturday night, despite the Tacoma-based club holding 58% of the possession. In essence, Houston has been quite the surprise to start the tournament, with a result on Wednesday surely placing them in the top half of the standings for the knockout round. 

Following Wednesday’s match, the Dash will face the Washington Spirit on Sunday, July 12 at 12:30 p.m. ET while Sky Blue will close out their preliminary round on Monday, July 13 at 10 p.m. ET against the North Carolina Courage. Both matches will 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.