• Lindsay Goldner

Challenge Cup Match Preview: HOU v. CHI

Updated: Apr 9

2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, presented by Secret Deodorant - Match 1

Houston Dash vs Chicago Red Stars

BBVA Stadium. Houston, TX

April 9 at 7:30 PM CT

CHICAGO - The Chicago Red Stars kick off this year’s campaign at the opening match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, as they travel to Texas for a primetime matchup against the Houston Dash on Friday, April 9th at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Where to Watch

CBS Sports Network, Twitch (International)

Storylines

Encore: The 2021 Challenge Cup begins the same way the 2020 tournament ended, as the Red Stars and Dash face off against one another for the first time since last year’s Championship game. The game capped off a historic year for the NWSL amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the league became the first professional sports league in the United States to return to competitive play.

The Red Stars clinched their second straight title game appearance after finishing sixth in the group, thanks to a classic display of grit by Chicago’s youth against Portland and Casey Krueger’s (then Short) heroics in the final group stage match against Utah Royals FC.

Chicago would begin the knockout stage of the tournament with a penalty-kick shootout victory over OL Reign. Julie Ertz, Vanessa DiBernardo, Kealia Watt, and Rachel Hill each delivered in the shootout for Chicago. The Red Stars would then start off hot in their semifinal match against Sky Blue FC. Bianca St.Georges would score her first professional goal less than 10 minutes into the match. Chicago would score two more goals and hold on for a 3-2 victory to send them to the Challenge Cup Championship against Houston.

Familiar Faces, New Place: The Red Stars made a number of additions to the team’s core this past offseason. Mallory Pugh and Sarah Woldmoe were both acquired from Sky Blue FC last December. Both players are not strangers to lining up alongside some of their new Chicago teammates.


Pugh has been a mainstay for the U.S. Women’s National Team roster since she became the youngest player to debut for the four-time world champions in 2016. Pugh was a member of 2019’s historic World Cup-winning team for the U.S. WNT alongside Chicago’s Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, and Tierna Davidson.

Before she made over 100 NWSL appearances for Sky Blue FC, Woldmoe was teammates with Ertz, Dibernardo, Kealia Watt, and Morgan Gautrat (then Brian) at the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup, where she became a key piece for the tournament-winning squad.

The Red Stars also welcomed the return of Nikki Stanton, having re-signed the midfielder this past offseason after she spent the 2020 season at Norweigan side Klepp IL. Stanton spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons with Chicago and made 39 appearances for the club en route to consecutive playoff appearances and the 2019 NWSL Championship.

Keepers Union: With both Chicago and Houston being without their respective No.1’s (Alyssa Naeher and Jane Campbell) in the net to begin the 2021 Challenge Cup due to international duty, fans will be treated to a showcase of how robust both team’s depth chart is at the goalkeeper position.

Houston will look towards Amanda Dennis and Lindsey Harris throughout the season when Campbell departs for international play.

For the Red Stars, Head Coach Rory Dames has his choice of Cassie Miller, Melissa Lowder, or Emily Boyd (once she's cleared for play post-injury). Boyd returns to the Red Stars after she went on loan overseas to Danish side HB Koge following the conclusion of last year’s Challenge Cup. Miller returns for her second year with the Red Stars after making her NWSL debut for Chicago in a combined clean sheet against Portland at last year’s Challenge Cup, coming in as a second-half substitute in a 0-0 draw. She would spend time with her previous club, Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus, on loan during the fall of 2020. Lowder joins the Red Stars for her first year in Chicago as a National Team Replacement player, having last appeared for then-Utah Royals (currently Kansas City) during the NWSL Fall Series.

For Chicago: During the offseason, the Red Stars secured their future in the city of Chicago with the addition of a groundbreaking new ownership group. Containing members that are homegrown fans and industry powerhouses alike, the Red Stars welcomed them all as believers in the power of possibility that the team represents. To learn more about the group, click here, and to learn how to be a part of the most Chicago-themed season yet, click here.

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