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Houston Dash advance to NWSL Challenge Cup final with 1-0 win over Portland Thorns

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Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly, left, battles for the ball against Portland Thorns’ Rocky Rodriguez (11) during the first half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer semifinal match, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Sandy.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup, which became the first team sporting event in the United States in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as it set up shop in Utah, has its first participant for Sunday’s final at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

On Wednesday, a 69th-minute goal from Houston Dash star Rachel Daly was the difference-maker as the Dash beat the Portland Thorns 1-0 in the first of two semifinal games.

Daly’s goal was the first in over three games of the tournament, as the last three all ended with a 0-0 scoreline before going to penalty kicks. The last goal had come in the first quarterfinal when the Thorns pulled the ultimate upset by beating the North Carolina Courage 1-0.

In the 69th minute on Wednesday, Houston’s Kristie Mewis delivered a corner kick into the box and teammate Sophie Schmidt redirected it with her head, bouncing it off the crossbar. The ball bounced outside the goal, but Daly was right there and tapped it in with her head.

The goal was Daly’s third of the tournament.

The Thorns dominated possession but the Dash finished with 12 total shots and four on goal, while Portland had 10 total shots and three on goal.

The Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC will play Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium for the second spot in the tournament final, which will be played Sunday morning.