Herriman, Utah — Another match, another penalty kick battle. OL Reign and the Chicago Red Stars were part of the third match to go to penalty kicks in the NWSL Challenge Cup quarterfinals. Since the first quarterfinal match, no team has scored a goal.
It may seem as dull soccer, but both sides kept fans entertained through 90 minutes. It was arguably the best 90 minutes that OL Reign had the entire tournament. However, penalty misses from Shirley Cruz and Lauren Barnes sent OL Reign home.
Alyssa Naeher didn’t even need to make a penalty save. Cruz’ shot went up high and over the crossbar. Meanwhile, Barnes’ shot had an unlucky bounce off the bar and went over.
Meanwhile, after a blunder miss from Kealia Ohai Watt in the second half for Chicago, Watt rebounded and scored a penalty. Julie Ertz, Vanessa DiBernardo and Rachel Hill also put away their shots past Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy.
After the match, Barnes said that OL Reign is heading home with a positive attitude.
“This team has been so special,” Barnes said immediately after the match. “The message is to keep going right now. We built something special and want to keep moving forward.”
Meanwhile, Watt said that Chicago was more comfortable on the pitch against OL Reign.
“We felt better today,” Watt said. “I think things were cooking a bit more. I was really mad about the shot that I should’ve scored. I’m excited that I’m getting into positions in front of goal, but I have to put that away.”
Chicago will now face Sky Blue FC, who stunned the Washington Spirit on penalties earlier on Saturday, in the semifinals on Wednesday. All semifinals matches will be on CBS All-Access.
In the #NWSLChallengeCup's 3️⃣rd PK shootout, @chiredstarsPR advanced to the semis by a matter of inches 😮
Relive all the action #RGNvCHI had to offer in tonight's @Verizon Match Highlights. pic.twitter.com/a1hjHsDlR9
— NWSL (@NWSL) July 19, 2020
Three takeaways from the Chicago Red Stars victory
- Strikers need more for Chicago: It’s impossible to replace a talent like Sam Kerr brings to the table. However, the Chicago Red Stars haven’t even begun to find the band-aid fix. None of Chicago’s strikers — Watt, Hill and Katie Johnson — have scored at the Challenge Cup. That’s a real issue heading into the Sky Blue match.
- Goalkeepers galore: Alyssa Naeher didn’t want those younger players ruining her reputation! Naeher is a great goalkeeper — and, in all fairness, Murphy played well, too. However, Kailen Sheridan, Aubrey Bledsoe and Britt Eckerstrom put on clinics in the quarterfinals. Naeher had some great saves, but she’s still far from the Golden Glove for me.
- What’s next for Rory? Rory Dames has given a lot of young players time in the tournament. Sadly, for the Red Stars, Ella Stevens entered the match in the 73rd minute and had to be taken out five minutes later. The status on her injury isn’t available yet. With tired legs from a long 90 minutes, will the Red Stars and Dames have to rely on some younger, inexperienced players against Sky Blue?
Semifinal schedule for the NWSL Challenge Cup
The semifinals are set!
The Portland Thorns and the Houston Dash will kick things off on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. EST. Later in the evening, Sky Blue and Chicago will compete in a semifinal showdown at 10 p.m. ET. All matches will be moved from Zion’s Bank Stadium to Rio Tinto Stadium, home of the Royals.