Red Stars run in the NWSL Challenge Cup falls short of a title

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SANDY, UTAH – JULY 26: Vanessa Di Bernardo #10 of Chicago Red Stars runs with the ball against Rachel Daly #3 of Houston Dash during the second half in the championship game of the NWSL Challenge Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 26, 2020 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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SANDY, Utah. – It was another opportunity to win a championship in the National Women’s Soccer League for the club, even if getting there was much different in 2020.

Unlike their appearance in the final last October, the Red Stars got their one on Sunday after six games of the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah. It was organized after the league’s 2020 regular season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will end up serving as the competition for the league this year.

But just like in 2019, the Red Stars hopes for a championship fell just short, even if the circumstances were much different.

With a lineup heavy with backups, the Red Stars fell to the Houston Dash 2-0 Sunday afternoon in the challenge cup final at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Sophie Schmidt’s penalty kick goal in the fifth minute gave Houston the lead for good and Shea Groom put it away with a breakaway goal in stoppage time. In between, the Red Stars had a number of chances on goal, but they could never finish.

It brings to an end a seven-game run for Rory Dames’ team that was both for the present and future. The team went 1-2-1 in the preliminary round then beat OL Reign in a shootout in the quarterfinals of the knockout round then a 3-2 win over Sky Blue FC in the semis.

The championship escaped the group again, but plenty of experience was gained by a collection of players who saw time due to the amount of injuries to the lineup. It gives Dames plenty to look at over the next nine months before the league likely gets going sometime in the spring of 2021.

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