The National Women's Soccer League became the first American professional team sports league to mark its return during the COVID-19 pandemic with the launch of the 2020 Challenge Cup in Utah on Saturday. The Washington Spirit picked up a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars in the nightcap of a two-game opening day.
USWNT star Rose Lavelle got the scoring started with a goal in the eighth minute to put the Spirit ahead. That lead doubled shortly after the second half began when Ashley Hatch found the back of the net following an error by Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. The Red Stars got a goal from Morgan Gautrat (who formerly went by Morgan Brian) in the 51st minute to cut the lead and half, but the squad could not find an equalizer the rest of the way.
Below are highlights and takeaways from the Sprit's victory.
Spirit 2, Red Stars 1 (Final)
⚽ Spirit: Rose Lavelle 8'
⚽ Spirit: Ashley Hatch 46'
⚽ Red Stars: Morgan Gautrat 51'
Chicago Red Stars: The last time the Red Stars took the pitch in NWSL play was during 4-0 loss in the 2019 championship game. They had to wait an eternity for an opportunity to wash away that memory and did so with a number of new faces on the pitch. Bianca St. Georges, a 2019 draft pick, had an impressive debut on the backline for Chicago, while Gautrat was able to get on the scoresheet. Kealia Watt, meanwhile, showed she is building into the wide player the Red Stars have been looking for.
Washington Spirit: One of the youngest teams in the tournament, the Spirit are building off of a 2019 season that saw them finally getting results on the pitch. They finally have the opportunity to have a healthy Lavelle play alongside rising star Andi Sullivan. Lavelle made her impact felt early and often with her goal in the eighth minute and some other chances throughout.
Earlier in the day, the Challenge Cup opener saw the North Carolina Courage defeat Portland Thorns FC thanks to a dramatic stoppage time goal by Lynn Williams in Game 1 of the tournament on CBS.
You can stream all games from the NWSL Challenge Cup with CBS All Access.