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Rachel Daly Heads Houston into the NWSL Challenge Cup Final

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Rachel Daly’s third goal of the Challenge Cup is enough to dispatch the Thorns

2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Semifinal - Houston Dash v Portland Thorns FC Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Houston capitalized on a set-piece as Rachel Daly headed home a rebound to send the Dash to the NWSL Challenge Cup Final.

The match kicked off in Rio Tinto Stadium with both the Houston Dash and the Portland Thorns trying to establish dominance early. Portland began building out of the back and looked to dictate the tempo of the match.

Houston dropped into a medium block, but when the Thorns entered the offensive half the Dash pressed them well. Portland was sloppy on the ball and the Houston pressure forced the Thorns into turnovers.

Portland looked to overload on the left, offensively, with Morgan Weaver, Christine Sinclair, Rocky Rodriguez and Meghan Klingenberg all shifting to that side. The Dash pressed them well and looked to release Nichelle Prince down the right. Prince was dangerous and was able to beat Klingenberg off the dribble and play in crosses to forward Rachel Daly.

2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Semifinal - Houston Dash v Portland Thorns FC Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The majority of the first hald was exactly what the Dash planned for. Portland had the majority of possession but were not very dangerous. The Houston defense was able to recover the ball quickly and release Daly and Prince into dangerous transition opportunities.

Despite Houston’s good defense and offensive transition, they were unable to carve out good goalscoring chances. Portland grew into the match toward the end of the half. They were able to pin the Dash in their own half and cleaned up their passing. The Thorns’ best opportunity came from a midfield ball over the top to Sinclair. She slid forward launching a volley just over the crossbar.

As Portland grew into the match they pushed more and more players into the opposition half. This left them vulnerable on the counter and the half ended with a dangerous transition attack from the Dash.

Thorns coach Mark Parsons made a double substitution at halftime to try and sure up the midfield. Celeste Boureille and Angela Salem were replaced by Emily Ogle and Gabby Seiler.

The second half started the same way the first half ended. The Thorns looked to pin the Dash in their defensive third and Houston looked to take advantage on the counter. Portland took more control over the match and began carving out more goalscoring opportunities.

In the 62nd minute Kristie Mewis played a ball to Prince in space. Prince fired a low shot but Britt Eckerstrom was able to get down quickly to make the save. This served as a catalyst for Houston. The Dash became more confident and took the game to the Thorns, but were unable to capitalize until Sophie Schmidt hit a header off the crossbar. Daly headed home the rebound to make it 1-0.

Portland responded with sustained pressure as they looked for the equalizer, but the Dash kept them off the score sheet.

The Houston Dash will face the winner of the second semifinal between Sky Blue FC and the Chicago Red Stars. The final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 26 at 9:30 am (PT) on CBS.