"This circle will not break", Houston Dash secure first Championship in pro sports' COVID-19 era
Updated: Aug 3
Despite a difficult past, finishing 5th in the standings at best and never featuring in the playoffs in their 6 year existence, the Dash were able to secure the Challenge Cup title against the Chicago Red Stars, an established side featuring the likes of Alyssa Naeher and Julie Ertz, two USWNT mainstays. Led by tournament MVP and Golden Boot winner Rachel Daly, the Dash defeated the Red Stars 2-0 today to conclude the tournament.
Early on in the tournament, the Dash faced Utah Royals FC, the tournament's host and played to an exciting 3-3 draw, giving Dash fans hope for a run during this tournament. The Dash proceeded to defeat OL Reign, fall to Sky Blue FC, and lose to the Washington Spirit. Due to inconsistent results, media began to speculate that the Dash were over hyped and would not be able to sustain success. However, in a rematch against Utah, Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell came up huge, saving multiple penalty kicks during the shout-out against the Royals. This win propelled the Dash into the semifinals to face another foe, Portland Thorns FC who historically had the Dash’s number. Co-captain Rachel Daly scored in the 69th minute, leading the Dash to a win against the Thorns, another established side chock full of talent. With top quality players like Rachel Daly, Shea Groom, Nichelle Prince, Jane Campbell, Kristie Mewis, and Allysha Chapman, the Dash have set themselves up to be a global power.
As the Dash looked towards the final, they would face the Red Stars, a squad that has never missed the playoffs, but has also never won a title. In classic NWSL fashion, the underdogs came up big as Sophie Schmidt scored a penalty in the 5th minute of the match against Chicago. Adding another nail to Chicago's coffin, Shea Groom's goal in the 91st minute secured a championship win for her team, and MVP of the game honors for herself.
With the tournament concluding today, it’s important to recognize that the NWSL, the first professional sports league to return to play, had over 2,000 COVID-19 tests taken, and no one tested positive, an incredible accomplishment from players, staff, leadership, and media alike. Other leagues must follow in the NWSL’s footsteps in order to maintain safety and contain the to the best of their ability.
Photo: Jeffrey Swinger/USA Today Sports