The Houston Dash made their 2020 competitive debut this afternoon, playing the host Utah Royals FC to a 3-3 draw to open the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret and P&G.
Playing the first competitive game by a Houston professional sports team since March 10, a span of 112 days, the Dash rallied from an early deficit to take a 3-1 lead before Utah scored twice late to snatch a point. Forward Rachel Daly scored a brace on either side of halftime to give Houston the lead, and midfielder Shea Groom scored on her club debut to make it 3-1 before Utah leveled things in the final 10 minutes.
Utah scored first when midfielder Diana Matheson ran onto a centering pass from forward Amy Rodriguez and tapped it into the net in the 35th minute. Rodriguez got in behind the Dash back line thanks to a through ball from midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta before centering to Matheson.
Daly, wearing the captain’s armband, leveled the score in first-half stoppage time with a left-footed volley from eight yards. Daly was set up by forward Veronica Latsko, who found space down the left flank and raced to the end line before clipping in a centering ball. Daly took a touch and buried her volley in the roof of the net.
Daly scored again just a minute into the second half when she rose above the Utah back line to head in a corner kick from midfielder Kristie Mewis in the 47th minute. It marked Daly’s fifth career brace in NWSL play and 26th career goal.
Daly appeared to have completed her hat trick in the 61st minute when she stepped in front of Smith’s clearance and poked the loose ball into the net, but referee Karen Abt deemed that she’d prevented the goalkeeper from playing the ball and disallowed the goal.
Groom made it 3-1 in the 67th minute with a left-footed blast from the top of the penalty area. The Texas A&M drove her shot into the upper right corner of the net with her first touch after forward Katie Stengel drove to the end line and pulled a centering pass back toward the top of the box.
Utah pulled a goal back late off a free kick from just outside the penalty area when midfielder Veronica Boquete bent her shot around the wall to make it 3-2. Utah earned the free kick after Dash defender Megan Oyster was whistled for a handball after a deflection. The Royals equalized in the 89th minute through rookie Tziarra King, who headed in a free kick from Boquete at the back post.
Houston nearly found the winner in the third minute of stoppage time when midfielder Christine Nairn found herself free inside the penalty area, but her right-footed shot was deflected on its way to goal, snuffing out the threat.