The NWSL Challenge Cup final was set when the Chicago Red Stars beat Sky Blue FC 3-2 last night in the second semifinal. They will take on the Houston Dash on Sunday in the final (12:30pm ET, CBS).
It was a very thrilling semifinal match, to say the very least. After two early goals by Bianca St. Georges and Rachel Hill, the Red Stars seemed ready to collect an easy win. The first half remained 2-0 and although Sky Blue had a few good chances, it was all Red Stars at the half. A third goal came later in the match courtesy of Savannah McCaskill. Sitting at 3-0, the Red Stars were on their way.
However, Sky Blue made things interesting. Evelyne Viens got one back in the 72nd minute for Sky Blue, and things got worse for the Red Stars when Julie Ertz deflected in a cross from Midge Purce Margaret Purce into her own goal just before the 2nd half hydration break to make it 3-2.
The Red Stars eventually hung on for the win by that same score and got their much deserved trip to the final. From a United States Women’s National Team perspective, Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and players like Kealia Watt and Danielle Colaprico put in shifts that were noteworthy. Rachel Hill, who scored a goal for Chicago, had another impressive game as well. For Sky Blue, Midge Purce had another good performance as well as Paige Monaghan. Could we see them dress for the USWNT in the future?
But, just like for the USWNT, Julie Ertz has been especially important for this Red Stars team. Do not let the own goal deter you from the fact that she is a rock star for this team. In an interview with CBS Chicago’s DJ Sixsmith, Red Stars forward Katie Johnson discussed why Ertz is important to their success.
“I think it’s her attention to detail,” said Johnson. “She wants to do extra and encourages all of us to do it as well. Even yesterday, we were watching extra film and she started that. It’s just an extra want to get better and also just make the whole team better. She’s constantly communicating and bringing a passion to the game, which is unlike anyone else and she does it day in and day out.”
Next up for Julie Ertz and the Chicago Red Stars is a date in the NWSL Challenge Cup final, where they’ll take on the Houston Dash. We will see if Ertz, Naeher, and the rest of the Red Stars can win it all.