Houston Dash capture NWSL Challenge Cup title with 2-0 victory over Chicago Red Stars
SANDY, UTAH – The Houston Dash captured the first title in team history with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday afternoon in the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship.
Goals in the first five minutes and the final five minutes, combined with a stout defensive performance throughout the match, were enough to see the Dash hoist the crystal trophy amid a shower of confetti at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Dash took an early lead off of a penalty kick from midfielder Sophie Schmidt. The Canadian international stepped up to the spot and coolly sent Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher the wrong way before burying her shot in the lower right corner of the net. The goal was Schmidt’s first with the Dash and first in NWSL play since 2014.
Houston won the penalty when midfielder Kristie Mewis raced around Chicago’s right back after a wonderful chipped pass from forward Rachel Daly. Mewis beat the defender to the byline, where she was brought down with a tug from behind. Referee Katja Koroleva immediately blew her whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
The Dash defended their 1-0 lead for 85 minutes before Daly played midfielder Shea Groom in behind the Chicago back line in the 91st minute. Groom ran onto the ball, touched it around Naeher, ran by the goalkeeper and tapped it into the empty net to seal the victory.
Groom was named NWSL Challenge Cup Championship Most Valuable Player for the Championship match for her effort throughout the contest. With the assist, Daly captured the tournament’s Golden Boot, given to the top scorer, with three goals and two assists in seven matches.
Goalkeeper Jane Campbell finished with four saves in the match, finishing with her third consecutive clean sheet in the knockout rounds of the tournament and her fourth in seven matches in Utah.
Campbell came up with a pair of big saves in the 15th minute to keep Houston in the lead. After Chicago left back Bianca St. Georges whipped in a cross, she dove to parry it away, then reacted quickly to get back to her feet and get her left hand on a headed shot from midfielder Savannah McCaskill. In the 28th minute, she dove low to smother a shot from Chicago forward Katlyn Johnson from the top of the penalty area. Campbell made another massive save in the 67th minute, leaping to push a free kick from McCaskill over the crossbar and keep the Red Stars off the scoresheet.
Houston finished the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup with a record of 4-2-1 en route to the championship. They will return to Houston on Monday, and details regarding a championship celebration will be shared in the near future.