NWSL Challenge Cup: Scoring drought gets critical in Utah

Wednesday's semifinal pairings at the NWSL Challenge Cup are set:

-- No. 4 seed Houston vs. No. 8 seed Portland
-- No. 6 seed Chicago vs. No. 7 seed Sky Blue FC

The top three seeds were all eliminated in the quarterfinals that saw the four matches produce one goal.

That's right: one goal.

The drought pushed the tournament scoring average to below one a game -- 0.94 -- over the last 17 games on the turf in Herriman.

After starting out at Zions Bank Stadium, the main stadium at Real Salt Lake's academy complex, the tournament moves to Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of RSL and the Utah Royals, for the semifinals and final.

Rookie Morgan Weaver scored in the 68th minute of the Portland Thorns' 1-0 upset win over the two-time defending NWSL champion North Carolina Courage. The quarterfinals finished without a goal in 292 straight minutes. (Knockout games go straight to shootouts.)

On Saturday, No. 6 seed Chicago Red Stars eliminated OL Reign in a battle of 2019 playoff teams. After 90 minutes of scoreless play, Chicago advanced when Lauren Barnes, a veteran of all eight Reign seasons, hit the post in the fifth round of the shootout.

In Saturday's early game, goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan stopped two shots in the shootout to give Sky Blue FC the win. She denied Dominique Richardson in the third game and then won the match when she thwarted Bayley Feist in the fifth round.

In the two games, the closest anyone came to scoring was Washington's Kumi Yokoyama, who hit the crossbar in the second half against Sky Blue FC. Sheridan made a great diving save on Washington forward Ashley Sanchez's header late in the first half.

In the nightcap, OL Reign had a big edge in possession but couldn't beat Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher, who made six saves. The best came when she pushed aside a shot by Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock in the first half.

July 18 in Herriman, Utah
Washington 0 Sky Blue FC 0 (Sky Blue FC wins 4-3).
Washington -- Bledsoe; Huster; Nielsen; Staab; McGrady; Bailey; Feist; Jacobs (Lavelle 61); Hatch; Yokoyama (Thomas 61); Sanchez (Collins 78)
Sky Blue FC -- Sheridan; Lewandowski; Dorsey (Skroski 78); Purce (Flores 62); Johnson; Cudjoe (Richardson 78); Woldmoe, Zerboni, Onumonu (Viens 86); Monaghan (Eddy 79); Kawasumi.

July 18 in Herriman, Utah
OL Reign 0 Chicago 0 (Chicago wins 4-3).
OL Reign -- Murphy; Cox (Momiki 73), Brooks, Barnes, McNabb, Cook; Cruz, Fishlock (Balcer 68), Taylor (Celia 73), Huerta (Quinn 90+2), Jenkins.
Chicago -- Naeher; Short, Ertz, St. Georges, Gorden, DiBernardo, Colaprico, Watt, Hill, Johnson (Vasconcelo 73), McCaskill (Stevens 73; Doniak 78).

1 comment about "NWSL Challenge Cup: Scoring drought gets critical in Utah".
  1. Dan Gautieri, July 19, 2020 at 7:19 a.m.

    This has been a great tournament, but have you been watching? Sheridan didn't stop Richardson's PK - they're on the same team. Nobody stopped that PK -- it was fired over the goal.

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