In another tight, ruggedly contested affair the Houston Dash further underlined their hopes of lifting their first major trophy in club history. Rachel Daly's bullet header in the second half was enough to earn Houston a deserved 1-0 victory.
As you might expect from two teams have been struggling for goals of late, the first real sight of goal didn’t come until the 24th minute. It was Houston who were the first to trouble either goalkeeper, as Lionesses striker Rachel Daly tested Britt Eckerstrom in the Portland goal with a low shot. The Thorns stopper was equal to the effort though.
With a place in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup final up for grabs, you could definitely understand the trepidation on display from both of these teams. This tournament represents a real chance of silverware. It’s a chance both clubs will be desperate to take.
With 34 minutes on the clock Kristie Mewis delivered an excellent in swinging corner, which had Jane Campbell all at sea. The Houston defence were able to smuggle the ball clear. The game was threatening to come to life. There were tentative calls for a handball from the Dash players as Daly attempted to force the ball goalward. But, truthfully, a penalty call would have been harsh.
Portland were struggling to get into the game, and didn’t really create a meaningful opportunity until the 40th minute. A superbly lofted ball from Emily Menges found Christine Sinclair free of her marker. However, the Canadian striker could only drive her shot over the bar.
With the game scoreless at the half, you had to feel that much more was to come. The first half was not the most memorable game of soccer I have ever seen. And I'm an Orlando Pride fan. However, 10 minutes into the second half. And still. Nothing. A cross towards Simone Charley from Emily Ogle for Portland was well dealt with by Campbell. Meh.
I’m perhaps being overly critical, but this was a major semi-final. I just expected a little more from the game. But then, the 60s came. The swinging 60s. Nichelle Prince tested Eckerstrom with a fiercely struck low drive on 61 minutes. And then. Eureka. A breakthrough.
Kristie Mewis delivered the ball on a sixpence (I like my old-fashioned English sayings, kapeesh?) to Sophie Schmidt at the back post. Her high, looping header cannoned back off the bar. The ball then fell to Daly who nodded home.
The Dash had a lead to defend. But... they never really had to defend it. Aside from an almost lucky ricochet off of Morgan Weaver late on. The Thorns never looked like scoring.
Congratulations has to go to James Clarkson’s team; they dug in and got a well-deserved win. They could win this, And I don’t say that lightly. They don’t create many chances, but they often don’t need to. With a forward in the form of Rachel Daly, they have a shot. Pay attention Phil Neville. For once.
Campbell –7- Dependable, but wasn’t really tested.
Chapman –7- Got up and down the line well, defensively solid.
Naughton –7- Paired up well with Prisock. Didn’t put a foot wrong.
Prisock –7- Commendable performance but wasn’t overly stretched.
Hanson –7- Defended well and provided reasonable support on the offensive.
Schmidt –7- Great header for the goal, and showed real intelligence to find the space.
Groom –6- Not one of her better games, but she has a bright future in this league.
Mewis- 7- Excellent set-piece delivery today.
Prince –7- Showed good bursts of pace, and was unlucky not to score on 61.
Visalli –7- Threw in a few dangerous crosses.
Daly –8- Lead the line excellently and took her goal well. Proper poachers finish.
Kelly- Not on the field long enough.
Kizer- Not on the field long enough.
Latsko- Not on the field long enough.
Eckerstrom –7- Very capable keeper. Did what she had too well. Nothing she could do about the goal.
Klingenberg –6- Inspirational team talk aside, nothing doing from me.
Westphal 7- Got up and down the pitch well. Solid.
Hubly –6- Struggled with Prince’s pace at times. OK, aside from that.
Menges –6- Didn't do a whole lot wrong. Helped the team to keep its shape well.
Boureille –7- Had some moments of industry, but not enough to inspire a lacklustre Thorns team.
Salem –7- Experienced midfielder had a solid if unspectacular game.
Rodriguez –6- Wasn't her best game tonight. Wasn’t able to get into dangerous areas to affect the game.
Charley –6- Tad unlucky with the chance she had, but didn’t do much else.
Sinclair –6- Looked isolated without Horan.
Weaver –5- Largely anonymous.
Seiler –6- Solid performance in the second half.
Ogle –7- Put some dangerous balls in, good left foot.
Lussi –6- Hardly got a kick late on.
With 34 minutes on the clock Kristie Mewis delivered an excellent inswinging corner, which had Jane Campbell all at sea. The Houston defence were able to smuggle the ball clear. The game was threatening to come to life. There were tentative calls for a handball from the Dash players as Daly attempted to force the ball goalward. But, truthfully, a penalty call would have been harsh.