The Houston Dash advanced to the NWSL Challenge Cup Semifinals with a 3-2 win over Utah Royals FC in penalties following a scoreless draw.
The Dash will now take on the Portland Thorns in the semifinal of the NWSL Challenge Cup on Wednesday, July 22. The kickoff time for that match will be announced following the second set of quarterfinal matches on Saturday. The match will be streamed live on CBS All Access.
Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell earned Budweiser Houston Dash Woman of the Match honors with two saves in the penalty shootout to go along with two saves in regulation. After Utah captain Amy Rodriguez hit the crossbar with her first effort, Campbell saved the Royals’ third shot and then denied the fifth and final attempt from Spain international Vero Boquete to clinch the victory.
Campbell entered the match as NWSL’s all-time leader in penalty kick saves, with seven, and recorded her first win in a penalty shootout. Head coach James Clarkson said in his postmatch press conference that Campbell was set to take Houston’s fifth penalty, had she not saved Boquete’s effort.
Although the match ended scoreless, it was not without excitement and intrigue.
Houston had a shout for a penalty in the seventh minute when forward Bri Visalli appeared to be brought down inside the penalty area by Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith, but referee Danielle Chesky called the foul inches outside the area and gave Smith a yellow card for her effort. Midfielder Kristie Mewis’ shot from the ensuing free kick was blocked by the wall before it could make its way to goal.
Visalli played a key role in another outstanding chance for the Dash midway through the first half when forward Nichelle Prince worked free along the right flank and whipped a cross in toward the penalty spot. Visalli was able to run onto it, but the ball carried just behind her and away from danger.
Prince and Visalli combined for another dangerous chance in the 39th minute when Visalli collected the ball 35 yards from goal and drove into the middle before playing wide left to Prince. The Canadian international’s right-footed shot had Smith beaten, but it clipped the far post and caromed just past Mewis, who was following the shot.
Campbell came up with a huge save in the 43rd minute when she parried away a shot from Utah midfielder Mallory Weber. Weber played a quick one-two with forward Amy Rodriguez to get free inside the area, but Campbell came off her line quickly and got her left hand up to deflect the shot away for a corner kick, keeping things scoreless going into halftime.
Houston created another dangerous chance in the 51st minute when captain Rachel Daly lofted a no-look chip to midfielder Shea Groom, who raced in behind the Utah back line. Groom wasn’t quite able to control the bounding ball enough to get off a clean shot, and her effort rolled wide of the target for a goal kick.
Daly, Groom and Visalli teamed up for another chance in the 55th when Daly received a throw-in and flicked it on to Groom with a nifty backheel. Groom played Visalli in for a shot inside the area, but her shot was deflected away by a Utah defender. Two minutes later, Visalli once again created danger with a volley from outside the area that forced a diving save from Smith at the near post.
Late on, midfielder Christine Nairn had a go at goal from a free kick 20 yards from goal after forward Rachel Daly was brought down cynically by Utah defender Rachel Corsie, but Nairn’s left-footed effort whistled just wide of the near post.