Another round of group games happened in the NWSL Challenge Cup this weekend and provided us with some great talking points. Below are three takeaways from the six matches that happened.
The SoCal Clásico shows up and shows out
The second iteration of the California rivalry saw San Diego Wave FC host Angel City FC on Saturday. Dubbed the SoCal Clásico by commentators (we’re all still workshopping that nickname), the match was broadcast on the main CBS channel and it provided everything that CBS and the NWSL would have hoped for. Alex Morgan scored a brace, Christen Press scored a goal of her own, the pace was fast throughout and altogether, we all witnessed six goals as San Diego ran out as 4-2 winners.
The win puts San Diego still within reach of making it to the next stage of the Challenge Cup while Angel City aren’t officially eliminated from the Challenge Cup but their task to make it to the semi-finals has now become much harder.
Rose Lavelle is finding her footing in Seattle
After coming to OL Reign late and spending more time with the national team than with the team, Rose Lavelle couldn’t quite gel with her teammates as much as she would’ve liked then. This year is a different story as she has been with the team since pre season and hasn’t missed a lot of time through international duty. That extra time has allowed Lavelle to build chemistry with her team and develop a better understanding of where she, and her teammates, tend to position themselves. It has helped Lavelle to picking up a goal and an assist over the last three games and made her a key figure in the OL Reign midfield.
Against Portland, that connection she’s built up with her teammates showed up and became the game-winner in a tightly contested match. After Quinn and Bethany Balcer had pulled Portland’s backline out of position, Jess Fishlock played a perfect one-time ball to Lavelle who was in space. Lavelle then set herself up with a touch before firing past the goalkeeper with her right foot, capping off an excellent team move. The more time Lavelle can spend with her team, the more fluid that midfield will become and as they’ve shown in three games, when it all clicks together, OL Reign’s midfield is a difficult midfield to stop.
Mal Pugh has completely found her footing again
After struggling with injuries and a drop in form, Mal Pugh found a new lease of life in Chicago last year. This year, her form has continued to be great with the Red Stars and continues to be essential for any success they will have going forward. Against the Houston Dash, Pugh was almost unstoppable and wove her way through the Dash backline time and time again. Her efforts were rewarded with two goals, both from tight angles, showing just how confident Pugh has become again.
The win sees the Red Stars top the Central division and in a great spot to make the semi-finals. As long as Pugh continues to be this red hot in front of goal, Chicago will go far in this competition.
We now head into an international break with the Orlando Pride the only team officially eliminated from the Challenge Cup. The rest of the teams still have a shot of making the semi finals so those games coming up in just under two weeks will have huge implications for almost everyone.
Which takeaways did you get from the NWSL Challenge Cup this weekend? Sound off below.