NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Semifinals

NWSL Challenge Cup Preview: Semifinals

Four teams remain in the NWSL Challenge Cup with the Semifinals slated for Wednesday, July 22 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Portland Thorns FC will square off against the Houston Dash at 12:30 p.m. ET, while Sky Blue FC will take on the Chicago Red Stars later that night at 10 p.m. ET.

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No. 4 Houston Dash vs. No. 8 Portland Thorns FC (12:30 p.m. ET, CBS All Access)
The first semifinal of the day will see the Houston Dash face off against the Portland Thorns at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The Thorns scored the lone goal of the Quarterfinals to knock off the two-time defending NWSL Champion North Carolina Courage, with second-overall selection in the NWSL College Draft Morgan Weaver accounting for the finish, the first of her professional career.

The win served as the first for the Thorns of the Challenge Cup, with goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom having a standout performance in Bella Bixby’s absence. The down side for the Thorns on the afternoon came in the 51st minute when midfielder Lindsey Horan exited the match with a hip injury. If Horan can’t go on Wednesday, the task in taking down the Dash becomes that much taller for Portland.

The Dash defeated the host club Royals to advance to the Semifinals in a penalty shootout, with Jane Campbell continuing to solidify her status as the PK queen by saving two attempts from Utah. 

After starting out the tournament netting five finishes in two games, the Dash have been shut out in their last three matches. Houston will need forwards Rachel Daly and Shea Groom to find their groove again in this one if they want to continue their run to the final of the Challenge Cup. 


No. 6 Chicago Red Stars vs. No. 7 Sky Blue FC
Both of these teams had similar paths to the Semifinals, upsetting their opposition in the Quarterfinals via a penalty shootout to advance to the last four of the tournament.

Chicago knocked off OL Reign late Saturday night with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher registering seven saves to shutout the Tacoma-based club’s offense. Two misses by the Reign later in the shootout helped the Red Stars punch their ticket to Wednesday’s Semifinal round. 

The Red Stars will need to get something going on the offensive end, with just two goals scored in five Challenge Cup matches. The side will be without Morgan Gautrat and Yuki Nagasato once more, so the chance creation will need to come from forwards Kealia Watt, Rachel Hill and Katie Johnson if Chicago wants to make it to Sunday’s final. 

Sky Blue has too had troubles on the offensive end throughout the tournament, but a standout performance from goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was enough to send her club through to the Semifinals.

After fending off a Washington attack Saturday afternoon, Sheridan would go on to make a game-clinching save in the penalty shootout to lock up Sky Blue’s spot in the Semis.

Regardless if either side can get on the scoreboard in this one, we’re posed for a good matchup with Naeher and Sheridan in net. Admittedly though, it’d be nice to see some goals again. 

The winner’s of Wednesday’s matches will square off in the NWSL Challenge Cup Final on Sunday, July 26 at 12:30 p.m. ET at Rio Tinto Stadium. That match will be nationally televised on CBS.

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