HOU: Houston dropped a game to the North Carolina Courage (0-1) after the game was abandoned due to weather
CHI: Chicago tied 1-1 against the Washington Spirit thanks to a goal from Bianca St-Georges
We Meet Again
Officially, the Red Stars and Dash have only met once this season, but Chicago has seen plenty of Diana Ordóñez and María Sánchez, both of whom played in the regular-season match against Chicago and the friendly the club played against Mexico’s Women’s National Team. Both Ordóñez and Sánchez scored in both of those matches. Despite the recent record against the Dash, Chicago swept the Houston side in Challenge Cup play last year with a pair of two-goal wins. Five weeks into the NWSL regular season, both teams are coming into form and will look different tactically compared to their first meeting this year.
What's at Stake?
In addition to bragging rights and a little revenge after the first meeting between these two teams, the stakes of this year’s UKG Challenge Cup are higher than ever before. The NWSL and UKG announced last month a one-million-dollar prize pool for the Challenge Cup this season. This is the largest prize pool in U.S. women’s soccer history and a ten-fold increase from last year’s prize pool. The prize pool is certainly a significant motivator for Chicago, but three points are also in play for Chicago. A win in Houston would mean Chicago would be tied in points with Kansas City who currently leads the central division (made up of Chicago, Houston, Kansas City and Louisville) after a win against Houston. This year, the winners of each division and the highest-placed runner up will move on to the semi-finals, with the winners facing off in the finals September 9.
After a tough loss against OL Reign, the Red Stars had to take on another offensive powerhouse in a Washington Spirit side that features Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Sanchez. According to Red Stars head coach, Chris Petrucelli, the team focused on defense in the week leading up to the Washington match, and the results were evident on the pitch. The team faced 23 shots, had possession 41 percent of the game compared to Washington’s 59 percent and had to defend against the Spirit’s 47 touches inside the 18-yard box; and yet, the Red Stars only conceded one goal that came from a debatable penalty call. While it was a team effort to come back and defend against the Spirit, defender Tatumn Milazzo’s performance stood out on a night that Chicago needed her the most. Milazzo completed six tackles, more than any other Red Star, and gave the Spirit front three fits, dispossessing them of the ball on multiple occasions. With performances like that, it is easy to see why the defender was named to the NWSL’s Best XI second team last season.