NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: Quarterfinals

NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: Quarterfinals

And then there were four. And the curse is real.

The Knockout Rounds of the NWSL Challenge Cup began this past weekend with the Quarterfinals, seeing Portland, Houston, Sky Blue and Chicago clinch a spot in Wednesday’s Semifinals at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

Through four matches, we saw just one goal in Portland’s 1-0 victory over North Carolina, with the remaining three fixtures being decided by a penalty shootout. Will we ever see a goal in the NWSL again? Only time will tell.

The Pride Stan went um...0-4...this weekend. Could be better for sure. 

Whether you believe in the curse or just want to join in on the fun, be sure to continue casting your vote and follow @ORLPride on Twitter and also follow the Club’s pages on Instagram and Facebook.

Friday, July 17

No. 8 Portland Thorns FC 1, No. 1 North Carolina Courage 0
No, it wasn’t a dream.

With their first win of the tournament, the Thorns knocked off the two-time defending NWSL Champions and tournament favorites North Carolina Courage to advance to the Semifinals.

Britt Eckerstrom, take a bow. 

With Thorns’ goalkeeper Bella Bixby out with a knee injury, Eckerstrom stepped in between the sticks for Portland and had a career day, somehow shutting out North Carolina’s offense. The Courage registered 21 shots in the match with eight on frame, five of which came from Debinha, with all of them being saved by Eckerstrom.

Morgan Weaver was the hero on the offensive end for the Thorns, scoring her first professional goal in the 68th minute for the eventual game-winner. The girl just has a thing for elimination games. 

The second-overall selection in the 2020 NWSL College Draft was able to get on the end of a cross from Rocky Rodríguez, tucking it into the back of the net for Portland.

The loss marked the first for the Courage since September 28, 2019 before going on their way to winning their second-consecutive NWSL Championship.

No. 4 Houston Dash 0 (3), No. 5 Utah Royals FC 0 (2)
This matchup looked a lot different than the last time we saw it.

After opening their Challenge Cup campaigns with a 3-3 draw, neither side was able to find the back of the net in this one, forcing the match into a penalty shootout at Zions Bank Stadium.

What we did see similar to the first time around was a questionable foul that potentially could have gone in favor of a Dash PK, but the officials deemed otherwise.

Both sides combined for just three shots on frame, with neither truly threatening on the offensive end compared to the last time they faced off.

Jane Campbell was the hero in the end, saving two penalty attempts from the Royals to punch the Dash’s ticket through to the Semifinals. She truly is the penalty kick queen.

With the result, the Dash will take on the Portland Thorns in the first of two Semifinal fixtures on Wednesday, July 22 at Rio Tinto Stadium at 12:30 p.m. ET, available to stream live on CBS All Access. 

Saturday, July 18

No. 7 Sky Blue FC 0 (4), No. 2 Washington Spirit (3)
The curse lived on in Saturday’s opening contest, with Sky Blue upsetting the Washington Spirit, taking the victory in a penalty shootout. 

We’d like to inform Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez that although there might be some truth to the curse, that we will not be deleting our account.

Washington was the more dangerous side on the afternoon, taking 12 shots and hitting the woodwork once, but Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was able to keep the Spirit offense at bay, registering seven saves prior to the penalty shootout. 

Sheridan later became the hero, saving Bayley Feist’s penalty attempt to advance Sky Blue to the Semifinals and essentially further confirming the Stan curse.

No. 6 Chicago Red Stars 0 (4), No. 3 OL Reign (3)
The Quarterfinals wrapped up with ANOTHER penalty shootout, Chicago taking this one in the end thanks to two missed attempts by the Reign.

Once again another standout goalkeeper performance, with Chicago and U.S. WNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher shutting out a Reign offense that put seven shots on frame in the match. 

Chicago’s best chance came from Kealia Watt in the 67th minute, who dribbled past three Reign defenders in the area before pushing her shot wide to keep the match scoreless.

With that, we went to our third penalty shootout in the last two days, where misses from Shirley Cruz and Lauren Barnes sent the Red Stars through to the Semifinals. And also left us feeling like this…

The Red Stars will now take on Sky Blue FC on Wednesday, July 22 at Rio Tinto Stadium. That match will kick off at 10 p.m. ET and be available to stream live on CBS All Access.


September 11, 2020: Major League Soccer has announced the 2020 regular season schedule through the end of September. From September 18-27, each MLS club will compete in three regular season matches. Additional 2020 MLS regular season matches will be announced pending further developments regarding travel protocols. Attendance at matches will be determined in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines.