NWSL Challenge Cup news: Courage ruthless against Washington, Racing remain perfect

Racing Louisville FC midfielder Maddie Pokorny. (EM Dash-USA TODAY Sports)
Racing Louisville FC midfielder Maddie Pokorny. (EM Dash-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Racing Louisville FC midfielder Maddie Pokorny. (EM Dash-USA TODAY Sports) /

NWSL Challenge Cup Central Division news: Monaghan scores again as Louisville remain unbeaten, Hamilton hits hat trick for Current

Racing Louisville vs. Chicago Red Stars

2-0 Racing Louisville 

Even without some of their most important players going forward, Racing Louisville overwhelmed a sinking Chicago Red Stars side in the club’s fourth UKG Challenge Cup contest. The home team netted two goals in eight minutes in the first half to remain the only club in this year’s cup competitions without dropping a single point. Overall, the Kentucky side is unbeaten in eight out of its last nine matches across all competitions.

Chris Petrucelli and the Red Stars are now on the opposite end of the spectrum with four losses in as many cup games. Racing’s No. 5, Paige Monaghan continues her tear. The former Gotham FC player’s strike in the 19′ past Emily Boyd extends her goal streak to three consecutive matches. Not only did she have a goal, Monaghan had the most shots on target of anybody that contributed within the 90 minutes. In her fifth start for the leaders in the Central Division of the Challenge Cup, Jordan Baggett found the back of the net for the second time in purple to get things going.

At the center of the Racing midfield, Jaelin Howell was once again the disruptor this team values immensely. At times she makes careless fouls in the midfield, and it was not different against Chicago. That is simply part of the way she plays. Howell amassed eight tackles plus interceptions, completed over 89 percent of her passes, and led the team along with Lauren Milliet in final third entries. You can’t ask much more from your No. 6. Savannah DeMelo is down under representing the United States while Howell is quietly putting herself back into the conversation for another call-up.


Kansas City Current vs. Houston Dash

3-1 Kansas City Current 

In case anybody forgot about the talent of Kristen Hamilton in the final third, Saturday, July 22 was a reminder. After Houston Dash broke through in the first 20 minutes of the tie, Hamilton netted three unanswered goals including two in first half stoppage time to maintain the pressure on Racing at the top of the Central Division.

The veteran attacker could be the answer to the mid-west side moving up in the league table. Without Debinha, KC has now won three out of its last four in both the league and cup. It was the first-ever hat trick in the history of the Challenge Cup. The NWSL table may say this side is in 12th, but it would not be shocking to see this club rise several positions when league play resumes. Hamilton alone had the same amount of shots on goal as the Dash.

Hamilton’s three-goal display puts her one hat trick behind Sam Kerr for the first in NWSL history including Challenge Cup. Currently, the former Courage forward is knotted with Canadian legend Christine Sinclair in that category. An electric turn on the right flank by Michelle Cooper set it all in motion. Houston never learned its lesson. The 31-year-old Colorado native was given far too much space to maneuver in the penalty on all three occasions in which she found the back of the net. Even with North Carolina scoring six goals this weekend at home, KC leads the pack in the goal-scoring department so far in the Challenge Cup.