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5 things I loved from NWSL Challenge Cup on Tuesday

Friends, this is really fun so far.

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2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Day 2 Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

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Day 2 of the NWSL Challenge Cup gave us a couple of very different matches. The early game had most of its action in either penalty area, while the late game featured a lot of pretty play in the center with no end product. I admit I liked the former a lot more than the latter, but there was still something I loved from every team.

1. This run by Amy Rodriguez

Now this here is 2015 A-Rod.

I’m wondering if the extra time off let Rodriguez both rest up and do a bit more quickness training, because her first step burst hasn’t looked this good since before her torn ACL.

Utah’s opener is such a great all-around team goal too. The Houston defense is watching Brittany Ratcliffe check back, Rodriguez notices which space is going to be open because of it, Lo’eau Labonta plays a perfect through ball, Rodriguez follows it up with a perfect cross, and Diana Matheson makes the perfect run to get on the end of it. More of that, please.

2. Tziarra King feeling the love

Between her silky skills, fearless attacking style, big smile, and willingness to take a lead on social justice issues as a rookie, Tziarra King is quickly becoming a popular figure in NWSL. She was asked post-game if she knew she was already a fan favorite.

“I’ve been getting a lot of messages from a lot of people showing their support and I’m so grateful for that,” King said. “it means so much to me, genuinely, and it definitely fuels me.”

The league named her woman of the match for scoring a late equalizer on her debut, and I’m so happy that her career is off to such a great start.

3. Rachel Daly already in top form

Dash fans were a bit annoyed that Daly didn’t get woman of the match, and despite how happy I am for King, I understand why. She was the most dangerous player on either team while she was on the pitch, scoring two goals and getting robbed of a third by some dubious officiating.

Her timing and composure on the first show why she’s playing center forward these days, not winger or fullback.

I don’t know how productive the Dash are going to be if Daly isn’t at her best, so it’s good news for them that she already looks like a scoring machine.

4. Jasmyne Spencer bringing awareness to police violence against black people

OL Reign forward Jasmyne Spencer wore a headband with the names of Black people killed by police on Tuesday night. Among the names she wants to make sure we don’t forget: Michael Brown, George Mann, Manuel Ellis, Tanisha Anderson. And of course, there are hundreds more.

This is a horrible subject, but an important one, and I’m glad Spencer took the opportunity to make sure we don’t forget about the victims that people are fighting for as they protest racial inequality and police brutality.

5. Jennifer Cudjoe’s story

I’d appreciate it very much if you’d stop what you’re doing to read this wonderful story by Bria Felicien. She profiled Ghanian midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe, who made her debut for Sky Blue FC on Tuesday night.

Cudjoe made the team from open tryouts, and looked super clean on the ball when she came into the match. I imagine Sky Blue head coach Freya Coombe will have been impressed by her technique and composure in her first pro game.

Today’s games

Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars — 12:30 p.m. ET

I’m hoping that the Red Stars are a bit more mentally prepared to give their best in this match. Head coach Rory Dames admitted his team was exhausted by conversations around the national anthem on Saturday, and I’m expecting to see a better team on Wednesday.

Washington Spirit vs. North Carolina Courage — 10 p.m. ET

A lot of people think this is a preview of the final, myself included. The Courage are the best team in the league, but Rose Lavelle appears to be on top form already.

Both games are on CBS All Access.