Houston Dash beats Portland Thorns in playoff tie, through to NWSL Challenge Cup final

Houston Dash, the highest remaining seed (fourth) in the tournament, had never been to the playoffs in seven years in the National Women's Soccer League.

Houston Dash's Rachel Daly's 69th minute header was the difference between her side and the Portland Thorns in the first semifinal of the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah on Wednesday.   -  Getty Images

Rachel Daly scored on a header in the 69th minute thereby helping the Houston Dash advance to the Challenge Cup title game with a 1-0 victory over the Portland Thorns on Wednesday.

The fourth-seeded Dash, the highest remaining seed in the tournament, had never been to the playoffs in seven years in the National Women's Soccer League.

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Nichelle Prince broke away in a sprint toward Portland's goal in the opening half Wednesday but she was caught by defender Emily Menges. Daly had the lone shot on goal for the Dash in the scoreless half.

Prince had another great opportunity in the 62nd minute but Portland goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom punched it away.

Daly finally broke through with her rebound goal that bounced off Eckerstom's back and into the net. It was Daly's third goal of the tournament and ended a three-match shutout for the Dash.

Portland went into the tournament with an 11-2-3 advantage all-time against the Dash.
The Thorns, who won league titles in 2013 and 2017, were hampered by injuries during the Challenge Cup.

Starting goalkeeper Adrianna Franch didn't play because of a knee injury, and defender Becky Sauerbrunn hadn't played since the opener because of a hip injury. The Thorns on Wednesday were also without midfielder Lindsey Horan, who was questionable going into the game with a hip injury.

Portland was also down to the team's third goalkeeper. Eckerstrom started the last two games after Bella Bixby sustained an ACL injury and headed home. As a result, goalkeeping coach Nadine Angerer, the former German national team goalkeeper and FIFA player of the year, was on Portland's bench as a backup.

The Dash will play the winner of the second semifinal match between the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue in the championship game Sunday.

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