July 22, 2020 / 7:39 PM / 15 days ago

Red Stars advance to face Dash in NWSL final

(Reuters) - The Houston Dash beat the Portland Thorns 1-0 on Wednesday to advance to the final of the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah thanks to a late header by Rachel Daly.

In Sunday’s final, they will take on the Chicago Red Stars who edged past Sky Blue 3-2 in a thrilling last-four encounter later in the day.

The Red Stars appeared to be cruising into the title clash having taken a commanding lead through first-half goals from Bianca St Georges and Rachel Hill before Savannah McCaskill added a third on the hour mark.

But Sky Blue reduced the deficit in the 72nd minute and an own goal by Julie Ertz five minutes later meant the Red Stars had to endure a nervy finish.

Earlier, a Houston corner in the 68th minute ricocheted off the crossbar and Daly pounced, diving to head the ball off the shoulder of Thorns keeper Britt Eckerstrom and into the net.

The Thorns, who upset tournament favorites the North Carolina Courage in the quarter-finals despite missing key players, were unable to break through Houston’s stout defense on an overcast day at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

Daly dedicated the win to the people of Houston, a city that has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everywhere in the world is struggling right now with this pandemic and the city of Houston has been through a really tough time,” said the Briton Daly, who also plays for the England national team.

“For us, it was for them - to give them something to look forward to,” she said. “I just want to say thanks for all the support.”

The pandemic forced the NWSL to pause its season in March before it returned with the Challenge Cup tournament last month.

Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Ed Osmond and Michael Perry

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