OL Reign 3
Chicago Red Stars 2
NWSL Challenge Cup
Cheney Stadium – Tacoma, WA – April 27, 2021
Chicago Red Stars visited the OL Reign in the Pacific Northwest Tuesday evening in NWSL Challenge Cup play. Neither side could catch the division leading Portland Thorns, but with the regular season on the horizon and returning internationals, the match was still an excellent chance for both sides to prepare for May forward.
The host Reign presented a far more veteran starting eleven than in their previous two Challenge Cup matches, having worked the returning Megan Rapinoe and Jessica Fishlock into starting roles. Even with the trade earlier in the day of Allie Long to Gotham, the Reign line up had Steph Cox and Lauren Barnes adding veteran presence.
A fairly back and forth first half was reflective of the early season and line up changes through these early matches. Chicago had the best of the early play, pushing more into the host half and making the Reign mostly counter for any opportunities.
Red Stars forward Mallory Pugh broke through with a left footed strike in the 38th minute, sneaking a low strike past the outstretched Karen Bardsley.
The Reign began to get more possession and opportunities as the first half closed, Sofia Huerta converting past ALyssa Naeher in the 41st after the Reign press had pressured the Red Stars into a bad turnover near their own penalty area. For the hosts, the goal was the first of the Challenge Cup, having been held goalless by both Houston and Portland.
It is oft quoted about how goals change games. Chicago continued for much of the second half with much of the possession, but a 70th minute OL Reign Leah Pruitt goal put them in a hole with 20 minutes remaining.
Kealia Watt appeared to have equalized in the 80th, but the flag was up and it was waved off.
Tziarra King extended the lead in the 87th, but the lead was tenuous as the Red Stars continued to press.
A 90th minute scramble and Chicago goal by Morgan Gautrat cut the lead to 3-2 going into the four minutes of announced stoppage time. Chicago pressed forward, getting one last set piece late, but to no avail.
In the end, the three Challenge Cup points went to the host Reign. Not scoring in the first two matches had weighed on them, breaking through with three goals and being mostly full strength doing it could bode well down the road. Chicago continues to look for its first win of 2021, but there was a lot of good in their performance and the regular season resets the standings.
A few more Challenge cup matches remain around the league; the Red Stars have completed their four,the Reign having one remaining. The regular season schedule has dropped and it should be an interesting year.
CHI – Pugh – 38′
OLR – Huerta – 41′
OLR – Pruitt – 70′
OLR – King – 87′
CHI – Gautrat – 90’+