NWSL Challenge Cup: Dash to the final

The Houston Dash, which has failed to make the NWSL playoffs in its six years in the league, is headed to the NWSL Challenge Cup final.

It moved into Sunday's championship game against the Chicago Red Stars when Rachel Daly scored on a header from close range in the 69th minute following a corner kick that was headed off the crossbar by Sophie Schmidt.

It was the first goal in 361 minutes -- the equivalent of more than four games -- in the Challenge Cup, where scoring dried up in the knockout round before the Red Stars broke out for a 3-2 win over Sky Blue FC in the second semifinal.

The Dash was the only higher seed to win its quarterfinal game when it defeated the host Utah Royals on penalty kicks in a battle of No. 4 and No. 5 seeds.

Houston has yet to have a winning season in six NWSL campaigns. It was the only NWSL team that didn't have a player on the USA's 2020 SheBelieves Cup roster. Jane Campbell had been in camp as the No. 4 on the depth chart in goal.

The Dash-Red Stars final will air on CBS.

What They're Saying, Dash coach James Clarkson:
“I thought we played really well collectively. And it’s nice to score a goal in open play and not have to rely on penalty shootouts. So, very happy, but all the praise and everything goes to the players because they were magnificent.”

July 22 in Sandy, Utah
Houston 1 Portland 0. Goal: Daly 69.
Houston -- Campbell, Hanson, Prisock (Kelly 90+6), Naughton, Chapman, Groom, Mewis (Kizer 87), Schmidt, Visalli, Daly, Prince (Latsko 90+1).
Portland -- Eckerstrom, Westphal, Menges, Hubly, Klingenberg, Boureille (Ogle 46), Salem (Seiler 46), Rodriguez, Sinclair, Charley (Lussi 66), Weaver.

The Red Stars broke out of their tournament scoring slump, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after 11 minutes and a 3-0 lead before holding off a furious Sky Blue FC rally for a 3-2 win.

Bianca St. Georges led the Red Stars with a goal and an assist. Rachel Hill and Savvanah McCaskill also scored for Chicago, which scored two goals in its first five games

Those two goals before the knockout stage were scored by U.S. national team players Casey Short and Morgan Gautrat, who both sat out of the semifinal match with injuries.

What They're Saying, Red Stars coach Rory Dames:
“We made it a lot harder on ourselves than we needed to. And I’m sure we’ll pay the price for that part of the game on Sunday from the effort we had to put at the end. But that’s how you learn.”

July 22 in Sandy, Utah

Chicago 3 Sky Blue FC 2. Goal: St. Georges (K.Johnson) 8, Hill 11, McCaskill (St. Georges) 60; Viens (Zerboni) 72, own goal 77.
Chicago -- Naeher, Ertz, Goralski (Davidson 81), St. Georges, Gorden, DiBernardo, Colaprico, Watt, Hill (Vasconcelos 67), K.Johnson, McCaskill (Doniak 79).
Sky Blue FC -- Sheridan; Lewandowski. E.Johnson (Skroski 10), Zerboni, Cudjoe (Eddy 79), Woldmoe, Purce, Flores (Dorsey 67), Kawasumi, Onumonu, Monaghan (Viens 67).

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