The Houston Dash finished the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup as one of three unbeaten teams in the tournament after the 1-1 draw with the Portland Thorns at BBVA Stadium this evening.
Houston finished second in the West Division with a 1-0-3 record while the Thorns advance to the tournament final next weekend at Providence Park with a 3-0-1 mark.
Dash midfielder Shea Groom broke the gridlock in the final seconds of the first half. Dash captain Rachel Daly and forward Veronica Latsko quickly put the ball in play off a throw in near midfield. Daly fed the ball to Latsko in space along the flank and the Virginia alum found Groom near the penalty spot for her first goal of the year.
Thorns captain Christine Sinclair scored the equalizer in the 77th minute. Forward Simone Charley got behind the backline and played a ball into the heart of the box. Sinclair’s first-touch finish snuck through a pair of defenders and past goalkeeper Jane Campbell at the near post.
Midfielder Kristie Mewis led the charge for Houston early in the first half. First, the midfielder forced the Thorns backline to clear a cross inside the box that floated to the far post in the fourth minute. Mewis drew the Thorns out of the box on a set piece eight minutes later to create space for forward Latsko at the opposite post, but the forward’s effort was off target.
Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn forced a save from Campbell in the 26th minute with a shot from outside the box. Campbell was tested again in the 60th minute and made a diving save at the near post to control a header from Charley. The Dash goalkeeper finished with six saves.
Houston’s final opportunity of the game came in the 88th minute off a corner kick. Forward Bri Visalli controlled a rebound outside the box, but her long-range effort was handled comfortably by goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
The Dash open the 2021 NWSL regular season on the road at Red Bull Arena on May 15 against the newly rebranded NJ/NY Gotham FC, led by two-time FIFA World Cup Champion and former Dash captain Carli Lloyd. The Dash will return to BBVA Stadium to host Kansas City on May 23 in the first NWSL regular season game at BBVA Stadium since Sept. 2019.