HERRIMAN, Utah — Paige Monaghan and Nahomi Kawasumi scored to give Sky Blue FC a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament Wednesday night.
Monaghan scored Sky Blue’s first goal of the tournament in the 17th minute, when Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell came out of the goal and Monaghan slipped around her on the run for a shot into an empty net.
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“We came out pressing, we came out hard, and as you can see we got the result we wanted,” forward Ifeoma Onumonu said.
In the 34th minute, Kawasumi caught Campbell way off her line and lofted a long-range chip to put Sky Blue up 2-0. It was the team’s first win of the group stage at Zions Bank Stadium.
“I think it’s an element of relief, but also just how well-deserved it was for the shift the players put in and how well they were playing,” Sky Blue manager Freya Coombe said. “It was just an appropriate reward, especially for Naho - she’s just been so smart and so clever, and doesn’t always get the praise that she deserves. I thought that was just a perfect opportunity for her.”
Sky Blue, based in New Jersey, was playing in Utah without U.S. national team players Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh, who are both nursing injuries.
It was the first loss of the tournament for the Dash, who were a surprise of the Challenge Cup after finishing seventh in the league last season. Houston co-captain Rachel Daly has two goals and an assist.
With Sky Blue's victory, the North Carolina Courage secured the top seed for the knockout round of the tournament.
Bethany Balcer scored in stoppage time and OL Reign defeated the Utah Royals 1-0 on Wednesday in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament.
It was the Reign's first victory in three group-stage Challenge Cup matches played without fans at Zions Bank Stadium.
Balcer's header came off Nicole Momiki's well-placed cross in the 91st minute. Royals goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart appeared to get a hand on the ball, but she couldn't keep it out of the net. Barnhart was starting for Utah after Abby Smith started in the team's first two games.
The Reign had Michelle Betos in goal for the first time in the tournament. It was her first game since injuring her Achilles tendon last season. She was tested early, fending off two good Utah chances in the first 12 minutes.
The Royals are playing without forward Christen Press, who opted out of the tournament.
Balcer, last season’s NWSL Rookie of the Year, had a good chance from distance in the 71st minute after coming off the bench, but Barnhart dove to push it aside.