Herriman, Utah — The Utah Royals FC had plenty of confidence heading into the NWSL Challenge. The Royals bid and were chosen to host the tournament, which kicked off in June. However, after last night’s loss to the Houston Dash, the Royals won’t be advancing in the tournament.
That means the Royals won’t be featuring in their usual home stadium: Rio Tinto. Challenge Cup group stage and quarterfinal matches have been held in Herriman, Utah, at Zion’s Bank Stadium. However, the semifinals and final will be held at Rio Tinto.
Craig Harrington will now need to wait until 2021 to coach in the Royals home stadium.
Houston and Utah opened up group-stage competition against each other, back on June 30. That match provided six goals in total, three for each side. However, Houston and Utah’s meeting in the quarterfinal was much different.
Chippy, aggressive play highlighted the match. James Clarkson was extremely critical of head referee Danielle Chesky and her inability to gain control of the match.
Houston Dash coach James Clarkson's full comments on referee Danielle Chesky's performance tonight. Clarkson says Megan Oyster is in the hospital having her ribs looked at. There's a deeper frustration here that the Dash feel like they've been hard done over several years. #NWSL pic.twitter.com/YpvZ9toyLb
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) July 18, 2020
However, Clarkson and the Dash got their wish when the match headed to penalty kicks. The Dash have arguably the best penalty-stopper in the NWSL with goalkeeper Jane Campbell. Meanwhile, Abby Smith had never saved PK up until last night.
Utah got off to a rocky start in penalties, with Amy Rodriguez missing the first attempt. However, players like Lo’eau LaBonta and Tziarra King were able to give some hope to Utah.
Missed, or saved, shots from Rachel Corsie and Vero Boquete did not help the Royals. For the Dash, three participants — Sophie Schmidt, Christine Nairn and Rachel Daly — were perfect on their attempts. Meanwhile, Smith made her first penalty save against Brianna Visalli.
Houston will now take on the Portland Thorns on Wednesday in the semifinals.
Three takeaways from the Houston Dash victory
- Refereeing needs addressed: Chesky was a liability in this match. That might sound harsh, but when a pool of NWSL Media Association reporters asks questions on questionable calls and Chesky refuses to answer? Well, then, that’s the outcome. Clarkson was absolutely right to be upset about the officiating — or should we say, lack of officiating.
- Cut the dramatics, please: Rachel Daly is really good at soccer. There’s no doubt about that. But, she certainly has a dramatic flair about her. Even when nobody touches her, she finds her way on the ground, rolling around multiple times. It’s hard to say anybody flops and rolls around more than Neymar, but Daly comes pretty close. To be frank, it ruins the integrity of the game and Daly’s own integrity.
- Will Houston have enough in the tank? It’s a legitimate question for how many bodies went down to the ground against the Royals. According to Clarkson, defender Megan Oyster was sent to the hospital with fractured ribs. In the morning, the Thorns certainly had some injuries — notably to Katherine Reynolds. However, Houston might have a numbers disadvantage against Portland.
This photo is fun because A-Rod/Daly, O'Hara/Mewis, Vero's reaction, and Diana Matheson just minding her own business pic.twitter.com/3QBDAGSkFp
— Lucas Muller (@lucaswmuller) July 18, 2020