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In-depth look at NWSL Challenge Cup Final

In-depth look at the Chicago Red Stars and Houston Dash ahead of NWSL Challenge Cup Final

July 26, 2020 By Juan Aguerrevere
The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup will come to an end on Sunday, July 26, at 12:30 p.m. ET after a month and 22 games of pure North American women’s soccer. The tournament has seen six teams exit, leaving the Chicago Red Stars and the Houston Dash as the last pair of teams standing for a chance to win an NWSL trophy for the first time

Live Soccer TV brings you an in-depth NWSL Challenge Cup Final preview including a match overview, players to watch, injury updates and head-to-head matchup. 

Chicago Red Stars vs Houston Dash: Overview

Chicago Red Stars

Head coach Rory Dames and the Chicago Red Stars saw this tournament as an opportunity to give more playing time to the least inexperienced players. And so he stayed true to his decision well-knowing that things could not go in Chicago's way.

Fast forward through group stages, quarterfinals and semifinals, and the Red Stars remain standing. However, they have paid the top price to get to this stage. The team has seen its fair share of struggles in the shape of injuries and scoring ability. 

Chicago's injury list lists seven players as out and one as questionable. The list includes key players like Casey Short, Tierna Davidson and Yuki Nagasato.

By the end of the preliminary group round, first- and second-year players played more than what they would have played if it was the regular season, but the results were not up to par. The Red Stars scored just two goals in four group stage games, winning one, drawing one and losing two. An appearance in the tournament final seemed farfetched as they headed into the knockout rounds.

A heroic performance by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher on the quarterfinal against OL Reign saw her keep a clean sheet and stop two penalties in the penalty shootout. Still not convinced with his team's ability to attack, Dames made it clear that attacking had to be done in the semifinal against Sky Blue FC if they wanted to reach the final. And to his luck, the players entered the pitch with a positive mentality scoring more goals in one half (3) than the rest of the tournament.

Houston Dash

On the other hand, Houston arrived at this tournament with guns blazing in their opening match against hosts Utah Royals scoring three goals in a 3-all draw. English forward Rachel Daly scored two of the three. She went on to assists Shea Groom in the following match to keep adding to her goal contribution tally. 

Despite a lively start to the tournament, the Dash struggled to find goals as they were unable to find the back of the net in the next two group stage matches and quarterfinal. Anyhow, Houston's hero, Daly, stepped up once again to secure a spot in the final by scoring the game-winner over Portland. 

The Dash will step on Rio Tinto Stadium with a chip on their shoulder given their poor history when facing the Red Stars since their first meeting in 2014. This final might be Houston's best chance at claiming NWSL silverware for the first time, given Chicago's current injury crisis. 

Chicago Red Stars vs Houston Dash: Players to watch

Chicago Red Stars

Julie Ertz – Ertz is the heart and soul of the Chicago Red Stars. She is the type of captain who understands her role and does not have to be a match hero for her work to be appreciated. Ertz could play in the backline or as a defensive midfielder and be equally efficient in both positions. She will be in charge of making sure her team remains focused throughout the game so that the final to avoid what happened in the second half against Sky Blue. 

Alyssa Naeher – Naeher has the second-most saves in the tournament, 18, and claimed two clean sheets in five games. Add her penalty shootout performance where she saved three penalties to her Challenge Cup resume, and you can figure out why she is on this list. The USWNT's first-choice keeper will help lead her team from her 18. 

Bianca St. Georges – St. Georges opened the scoring for the Red stars after just eight minutes. Three minutes later, she assisted Rachel forward Rachel Hill. Full backs going forward early in the game exemplified Chicago's approach going into the game. They showed hunger from the start by sending fullbacks into Sky Blue's final third, and it worked right away.

Houston Dash

Rachel Daly – Having won the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup MVP award, Daly is the first player that comes to mind when talking about players to watch. The Lioness registered three goals – tied for top scorer with Lynn Williams – and one assist throughout five games. Moreover, she acts as Houston's first line of defense by pestering opposition defenders. Once the opposition turns over possession, the Dash looks for Daly to orchestrate attacks. She has a lot of responsibilities that she can live up to in a big part to her prime physical ability. 

Kristie Mewis – Mewis has proved to be a dangerous element in Houston's attack throughout the tournament. She has a goal and an assist to her name, but the statistic that catches attention is her 25 cross completions. It helps that she is the designated corner taker in the team and rightfully so after taking the corner kick that led to Daly's semifinal game-winner.

Jane Campbell – Campbell heads into the final with 17 saves, three clean sheets and a penalty shootout victory. Despite not winning the golden glove, she still has a shot for the NWSL Challenge Cup most valuable player award. Of course, the game must pan out in such a way that gives her more responsibility. But if the game does pan out that way, then she will have no problem stepping up to the challenge given her past performances.

Chicago Red Stars vs Houston Dash: Injury list

Chicago Red Stars: Alyssa Mautz (OUT, left knee), Arin Wright (OUT, postpartum), Yuki Nagasato (OUT, left leg), Tierna Davidson (OUT, Right Lower Leg), Morgan Gautrat (OUT, right leg), Ella Stevens (OUT, left leg), Casey Short (OUT, head), Danielle Colaprico (OUT, right ankle), Zoe Redei (OUT, right hip)

Houston Dash: Christine Nairn (OUT, general illness), Megan Oyster (questionable, thorax), Bridgette Andrzejewski (questionable, right ankle), Bri Visalli (questionable, right knee)

Chicago Red Stars vs Houston Dash: Head-to-head

Chicago and Houston have met on 17 times since their first game played on May 11, 2014. The Red Stars won the game 1-0 and set the tone for the future of this matchup. Chicago leads the all-time record 9W-5D-2L. The Houston Dash will aim to win their first game against Chicago since May 6, 2017, in order to lift the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup trophy.

Chicago Red Stars vs Houston Dash: Broadcast information

 

Match details, result and original broadcast info

Houston Dash 2 - 0 Chicago Red Stars

July 26, 2020 12:30pmRio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah

This match has ended. Below are the original Live broadcast details for this match.

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