Monday, May 23, 2022

NWSL Challenge Cup: Spirit advance past Reign on penalties, Courage defeat Kansas City in semifinals

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Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage will meet in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup final after eliminating their opposition during semifinal action. OL Reign and Kansas CIty Current end their Challenge Cup tournaments as leaders of the West and Central regions, respectively. Fans can watch the Challenge Cup final on May 7 on CBS. 

Here’s how the two finalists punched their ticket to the big game:

Reign vs. Spirit

In this repeat of the 2021 NWSL playoff semifinal, the two sides prepared for their Challenge Cup semifinal just three days after meeting in their regular-season opener. The two sides played at Audi Field once more after schedule overlap and event conflicts forced top-seeded OL Reign to play the semifinal on the road instead of at Lumen Field. 

The Reign had long stretches of momentum in the first half despite less time on the ball. They headed into halftime with 47% possession and out-shot the Spirit 7-2. The Pacific Northwest side regained control of the second half when it recorded more shots on target 8-5.

The dynamic attack of Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, and Ashley Sanchez were limited to 12 shots compared to 21 from the Reign. A controversial no-call on a handball during late-game stoppage time set the stage for high drama as the game went to penalty kicks.

Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury came out the hero on the evening. She converted a penalty and made a crucial save on 2021 NWSL MVP Jess Fishlock to close out the game as the Spirit won on penalties 9-8.

Current vs. Courage

After going undefeated during Challenge Cup group play, the North Carolina Courage defeated Kansas City Current 2-1 on a rainy night in Kansas City as Debinha and Diana Ordonez recorded goals for the Courage and Kristen Hamilton scored for Kansas City.

Brazilian international Kerolin won a foul in the box and Debinha stepped up to convert to give the Courage an early lead. It’s the third penalty won by Kerolin during the Challenge Cup. Ordonez extended the lead for North Carolina just after the half hour mark on a sliding run into the box.

The rainy, soggy, match made things difficult on the pitch for both sides on the night, as Kansas City pulled one back late in the game in the 79th minute, but the Courage held on to keep the victory. 

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