NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: End of Prelims

recapping the Challeng Cup first day

Did you miss the NWSL action this week? Don’t worry, we got you covered with our recap of everything that went down during the end of the Challenge Cup’s preliminary round.

New Team, Who Dis?

Racing Louisville FC unveiled their club and crest colors earlier this week. RLFC will become the 10th NWSL team in 2021. The club’s primary color is lavender, which is appropriate considering how many lesbians will probably play for this team. Despite the pandemic, the club’s president Brad Estes stated, “we continued doing what we were doing anyway… we’re actively participating in the running of the league.”

https://twitter.com/RacingLouFC/status/1282392317702344704?s=20

What do you think of the new logo and colors?

Utah Royals v OL Reign

Judging from what we’ve seen so far, these two teams were pretty evenly match. And it showed. ARod had no shortage of attacking power, but Michelle Betos had stopping power.

And that seemed to be the story for the rest of the match as they went a full 90 without scoring. But just when we all thought it would end in a draw, 2019’s Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer showed us why she won that title. Her header during stoppage time was the Reign’s first goal of the tournament. It secured the Reign’s 1-0 victory over Utah.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1280934707148939264?s=20

Sky Blue FC v Houston Dash

Sky Blue is looking like a new team this year. For one, they aren’t at the bottom of the table. Love that journey for them! Sky Blue started off with a goal by Paige Monaghan. She caught Dash keeper and known lesbian Jane Campbell off her line and it was easy going from there.

The other team can’t win if they can’t score at all, right? Let’s take a moment to appreciate the defenders and all the dirty work they do for their team. We see you and we appreciate you.

https://twitter.com/EqualizerSoccer/status/1281054682505412608?s=20

Thanks to that defending, Sky Blue was able to maintain their lead. But that wasn’t enough. Houston could still equalize. It’s always best to have a buffer goal just in case. When Jane Campbell was way off her line, Nahomi Kawasumi swooped in and chipped the keeper from way outside the box.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1281057949742440448?s=20

Anyone else reminded of THAT Carli Lloyd goal from the 2015 World Cup? Naho was at that game, she might’ve taken some pointers. But there was still plenty of time for a Houston goal. So, here’s a gif of soccer girlfriends Rachel Daly and Kristie Mewis strategizing during a break in play.

Unfortunately for Houston, not even the combined lesbian power of two soccer girlfriends on the same team was enough to get the W. This 2-0 win marks Sky Blue’s first time they won a game by multiple goals since June of 2017.

Washington Spirit v Houston Dash

With almost no rest, the Dash took on the Spirit. But, the Spirit came into this game with almost double the rest time as their opponent. When you factor in the heat, altitude, and the fact that they’re playing on turf, the Dash had it rough. That doesn’t mean they didn’t put in the work, though. Rach Daly was able to save her team early on with this goal line clearance.

But even that wasn’t enough as Bayley Feist scored for the Spirit.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1282360089660227586?s=20

The Dash didn’t give up, though. The lesbian connection between Mewis and Daly looked promising, but unfortunately it wasn’t strong enough to produce a goal.

Later that game, the Spirit’s Andi Sullivan walked off the field with an injury. The extent of the injury wasn’t known at the time, but it was later confirmed that she tore her medial meniscus in her left knee. She’s out for the remainder of the tournament and is headed back to DC for surgery. She can at least take comfort in her team’s 1-0 win over the Dash. It’s the second W for the Spirit, and the second consecutive L for the Dash.

Chicago Red Star v Utah Royals

The Red Stars were in last place coming into this game, so they were desperate for a win. This game also marked Kelley O’Hara’s return after an injury. You might remember her from the photos of her running to the stands to kiss her girlfriend after the USWNT wont the World Cup last year. But not even her return was enough to get the W for Utah. Casey Short’s header late in the game won it for the Red Stars and saved them from a last place finish.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1282525326611042304?s=20

OL Reign v Portland Thorns

And the Cascadia rivalry returns. Imagine if they played recorded crowd chants from Portland’s home crowd against the Reign. That would have definitely made it feel more like a normal NWSL game. Anyway, this game saw the return of Reign veteran and Welsh lesbian Jess Fishlock. She suffered a knee injury last season.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1282780792939139073?s=20

One other remarkable thing about this game is that the first ever Mexican-American woman to cap for the USWNT, Steph Cox, and the second Mexican-American to cap for the USWNT, Sophia Huerta, were playing at the same time, on the same team. Nice. What wasn’t so nice was seeing the previous game’s hero, Bethany Balcer go down with what looked like difficulty breathing. Many speculated that it might have been the altitude. Others went with the worst case scenario as one of the symptoms of COVID-19 is difficulty breathing. After the match, Balcer tweeted that she suffered a panic attack after walking off the pitch.

People often neglect mental health, but mental illnesses and disorders will make themselves known no matter what. We are glad to hear she’s feeling better, though. And despite all the heavy hitters on either side, no one was able to score. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

North Carolina Courage v Sky Blue FC

Sky Blue has been looking great during this tournament. All our hopes rested in Kailen Sheridan’s gloved lesbian hands to keep NC from scoring. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stop Sam Mewis (sister of Kristie Mewis) from scoring early in the game.

We know lesbians are good with our hands, but did you know we’re good with our feet too? Sheridan was able to stop Crystal Dunn from scoring.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1282867922701033472?s=20

But Crystal wasn’t Dunn yet. She doubled the Courage’s lead early in the second half.

https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1282879982851817472?s=20

And that sealed NC’s W. The courage finished at the top of the table with no losses.

Onto the Knockout Stage

And that was the end of the prelims, ladies. The quarterfinals begin on Friday and we have our bracket.

https://twitter.com/RachaelKriger/status/1282889772919291904?s=20

Based on performances thus far, The NC versus Thorns game might be a repeat of the tournament’s first match. The Courage will most likely win over the Thorns unless Christine Sinclair and The Great Horan harness the strength of the soccer goddesses to defeat them. The other brackets are fairly evenly matched and could go either way. But, everyone seems to have their minds made up about the Courage taking it all, though. Who do you think could pull the upset?