SANDY, Utah — Sophie Schmidt scored on an early penalty kick and Shea Groom added a stoppage-time goal to give the Houston Dash a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup final on Sunday.
The monthlong tournament was the N.W.S.L.’s reboot after its regular season was shut down before it could begin by the coronavirus outbreak. The event effectively served as an abbreviated season; the surprise was that it was won by Houston which, in its seventh year in the league, had never previously made the playoffs.
The Red Stars went to the N.W.S.L. championship game last season, where they were routed, 4-0, by the North Carolina Courage.
Houston, which did not allow a goal in its three knockout-round games, was aggressive from the start on Sunday. Kristie Mewis was on the run when she was fouled by Kayla Sharples for a penalty kick; Schmidt converted it into the opening goal in the fifth minute.
The Red Stars nearly drew even in the 15th minute, but Savannah McCaskill’s header off a rebound hit the post. McCaskill had another chance on a shot from distance in the 67th minute, but Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell tipped it up and over the crossbar.
Chicago was pressing for a tying goal late when Groom slipped behind a defender, touched the ball around the goalkeeper and slotted it in for the clinching goal in the 91st minute. It was Groom’s third goal of the tournament.
The N.W.S.L. was the first professional team sport to return in the United States. Eight of the league’s nine teams have been sequestered in Utah for the duration of the tournament, which started on June 27.
The league’s ninth team, the Orlando Pride, withdrew shortly before the start after it recorded a series of positive coronavirus tests. But there were no positive tests in the so-called bubble the league set up in Utah for the duration of the event.
Houston’s Rachel Daly was the Challenge Cup’s most valuable player.