The NWSL wrapped up the group stage of its second Challenge Cup on Monday when OL Reign defeated Kansas City, 2-1.
The spots in Saturday's final had already been claimed: Portland vs. Gotham FC. They will meet in a match that will air on CBS at 1 p.m. ET (which means a 10 a.m. kickoff in Portland).
On Monday, the Oregonian reported that Oregon Governor Kate Brown was to deny NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird's request for an exemption from new restrictions on outdoor gatherings imposed because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. (The same request made by the Timbers for their MLS match against the archrival Seattle Sounders on Sunday was also denied.)
The Thorns, the only women's team in the world to have ever averaged 20,000 fans, and Timbers had held five games with a limited number of fans at Providence Park without incident before the surge elevated 15 Oregon counties — including Portland's Multnomah County — into the “extreme risk” level for coronavirus restrictions and limited the Thorns and Timbers to hosting no more than 100 fans.
Oregon will reevaluate the restrictions at the end of the week based on the latest COVID-19 numbers. A key one will be hospitalizations, whose figures on the Oregon Health Authority web site jumped 5 percent from Friday to Monday.
Oregon has the third highest increase of any state in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last 14 days, but that still ranked below the national average. Its case rate during the pandemic has been the third lowest in the country behind only Hawaii and Vermont.
1. Gotham FC 2-0-2, 8 points (5-3)
2. NC Courage 2-1-1, 7 points (9-8)
3. Orlando 1-1-2, 5 points (3-3)
4. Washington 1-2-1, 4 points (3-4)
5. Racing Louisville 0-2-2, 2 points (4-6)
1. Portland 3-0-1, 10 points (6-2)
2. OL Reign 2-1-1, 7 points (5-5)
3. Houston 1-0-3, 6 points (4-2)
4. Chicago 0-2-2, 2 points (3-5)
5. Kansas City 0-3-1, 1 point (4-8)
USWNT stars return. U.S. women's national team players returned for the Challenge Cup after missing the first part of the tournament due to international commitments.
The final will feature no less than six players in the mix for berths on the Olympic team: Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Sophia Smith for Portland and Carli Lloyd and Midge Purce for Gotham FC. Former U.S. world champions on the two teams include Portland's Adrianna Franch and Meghan Klingenberg and Gotham FC's recently acquired Allie Long.
Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign) and Lloyd made their first NWSL action since 2019. Both sat out the 2020 Challenge Cup and Fall Series.
New teams go winless. Kansas City's loss to OL Reign left both new NWSL teams without wins in the Challenge Cup.
Kansas City, which finished with three losses and one tie, took the lead on Mallory Weber's early goal, but OL Reign rallied for goals by Jessica Fishlock and Celia to win, 2-1, and claim second place in the West.
Racing Louisville finished with two ties and two losses, drawing in its final game with Gotham FC, 0-0. The result was enough for the New Jersey team to win the East ahead of the North Carolina Courage.
Mallory Weber Photo: ISI Photos/Kansas City