NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Wednesday, July 1

NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Wednesday, July 1

The first match jitters are now behind us and we’re looking ahead to the second slate of contests for the NWSL Challenge Cup on Wednesday, July 1 at Zions Bank Stadium. To cast your vote for who the Pride will be rooting, follow @ORLPride on Twitter and also follow the Club’s pages on Instagram and Facebook.

Portland Thorns vs. Chicago Red Stars (12:30 p.m. ET, CBS All Access)
Wednesday’s first contest will serve as a rematch of the 2019 NWSL Playoff Semifinals, with the Portland Thorns set to take on the Chicago Red Stars. Both sides will be looking for their first result of the tournament after dropping their opening fixture.

The Thorns looked to be on the way to splitting the points with North Carolina on Saturday until a 94th minute finish from Lynn Williams gave all three points to the Courage. While Portland got off to a slow start on the offensive, rookie goalkeeper Bella Bixby wasted no time getting going, a stalwart in net for the Thorns throughout the first half. 

Bixby will likely need to replicate that same performance on Wednesday, as the Thorns will be without U.S. WNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who has been declared out with a left hip injury. First overall 2020 NWSL College Draft pick Sophia Smith will also not be available for the Thorns once more, out with a left knee injury. 

The Red Stars will look to bounce back from a 2-1 loss to the Washington Spirit late Saturday night. The void left by Sam Kerr’s departure was noticeable for Chicago, who were unable to connect the final pass in the area for the majority of the evening. Midfielder Yuki Nagasato looked to retain her form from a year ago, while newcomer Kealia Watt was able to get free down the flanks, but neither were able to put the ball in the back of the net. 

Washington Spirit vs. North Carolina Courage (10 p.m. ET, CBS All Access)
In contrast to the afternoon match, Wednesday evening will see two sides square off that each earned a victory in their Challenge Cup opener when the Washington Spirit take on the North Carolina Courage.

Washington had a dream start to the tournament, with Rose Lavelle reminding everyone just how good she is, finding the back of the net in the 10th minute. Lavelle was all over the pitch Saturday night, creating numerous chances for the Spirit side along with forward Ashley Hatch, both of which led the Spirit with three shots apiece on the night. If the Spirit can maintain that very form, they will be a formidable foe for North Carolina on Wednesday. 

Shifting gears to the Courage, while it took them 75 minutes to find the back of the net, they looked true to form on Saturday afternoon with Lynn Williams leading the attack with six shots to her credit. The Courage outshot the Thorns 15 to 10, with five of those on frame, replicating the very same firepower we’re used to seeing from Paul Riley’s side. 

Williams will have to spearhead the attack once more, as forward Jessica McDonald will be sidelined again for the Courage on Saturday with a right thigh injury. North Carolina will also be without their top draft pick forward Ally Watt for the remainder of the tournament, as she suffered a right ACL tear this weekend just minutes after making her NWSL debut.