by Jen Cooper
The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup is done and dusted, and an unlikely champion has claimed the (beer-filled) trophy sponsored by Budweiser. The Houston Dash, after six seasons without making the NWSL playoffs, won the finale Sunday 2-0 over the Chicago Red Stars to take home the club’s first trophy.
The Dash earned three straight clean sheets in the knockout stage to end the tournament with 4 shutouts overall and a goals-against-average of 0.86. Jane Campbell played every minute in goal for Houston, as she has for every Dash NWSL game since June 24, 2017.
Rachel Daly grabbed the tournament Golden Boot award with a stoppage-time assist on Shea Groom‘s breakaway goal, finishing with 3 goals and 2 assists in 7 games. That second assist gave her the edge over North Carolina’s Lynn Williams in the Golden Boot standings:
Full Golden Boot ranking (all playeres who scored or earned an assist)
The Challenge Cup final featured the tournament’s first penalty-kick attempt and goal during regulation. Canadian Sophie Schmidt stepped up to take the kick, and converted her first NWSL goal since 2014, when she played for Sky Blue FC. Alyssa Naeher was in goal for Chicago, facing her 21st PK attempt (not including shootouts) in her NWSL career, more than any other keeper. Schmidt’s goal was the earliest goal scored in the tournament (5th minute).
Houston center back Katie Naughton played every minute of the Dash’s seven tournament games, the only field player to do so. Naughton helped the defense set a new club record for consecutive minutes without conceding a goal — the record now stands at 344 minutes. The previous club record was 315 shutout minutes, set back in May/June 2015.
Shea Groom‘s stoppage time goal to seal the victory for the Dash was just the third second-half stoppage goal of the tournament, and the only one of those three not to be a game-winner. North Carolina’s Lynn Williams scored in the 4th minute of stoppage time to secure a win against Portland in the Challenge Cup opener, and Bethany Balcer of OL Reign scored in the 91st minute against Utah for the team’s only win of the tourney.
Three tournament awards were announced the Saturday before the final. These were determined by a media vote:
MVP – Rachel Daly, Houston
Golden Glove – Kailen Sheridan, Sky Blue FC
Future Legend – Ashley Sanchez, Washington Spirit
— NWSL (@NWSL) July 25, 2020
The Challenge Cup Best XI was announced at halftime of the championship game. This list was determined by votes from players (40%), coaches (20%), media (20%) and fans (20%). Voting ended on Thursday, July 23.
GOALKEEPER – Britt Eckerstrom, Portland Thorns
DEFENDERS – Jaelene Daniels, Abby Erceg, Julie Ertz, Casey Short
MIDFIELDERS/FORWARDS – Rachel Daly (HOU), Debinha (NC), Shea Groom (HOU), Lindsay Horan (POR), Rose Lavelle (WAS), Lynn Williams (NC)
Individual stat leaders:
SHOTS – Lynn Williams (NC), 23
SHOTS ON GOAL – Debinha (NC) & Lynn Williams (NC), 9
FOULS – Jennifer Cudjoe (NJ), 13
OFFSIDES – Rachel Daly (HOU), 8
CORNER KICKS – Sarah Woldmoe (NJ), 24
SAVES – Jane Campbell (HOU) & Kailen Sheridan (NJ), 21
Want to rewatch the Challenge Cup? For fans in the USA and Canada, all games are available on demand via CBS All-Access, which is just $6/month after a one-week free trial. All other fans can rewatch matches at NWSLsoccer.com/replays.
Be sure to check out the Mixxed Zone women’s soccer podcast hosted by Keeper Notes later this week — the next episode will recap all the action of the Challenge Cup semifinals and championship game.
NWSL Challenge Cup merchandise is available at NWSLshop.com.
Photo Gallery of the Dash return to Houston
courtesy of Gia Quilap/Keeper Notes
Houston Dash return to H-Town