Rachel Daly won her first domestic title with Houston Dash after beating Chicago Red Stars in the final of the NWSL Challenge Cup in July.
The new National Women’s Soccer League season was due to begin in April but the world found itself in lockdown following the Coronavirus Pandemic meaning football, and sport around the world, was put on hold.
Everyone found themselves wondering when and where sport would take place again. Following the decision to suspend the NWSL season, it was decided that a one off tournament would be played in Utah between the nine teams associated with the league.
Harrogate born Rachel Daly has played for Houston Dash since 2016 and had yet to win a title with her team. Houston entered the NWSL Challenge Cup tournament as one of the underdog teams that no one suspected would get very far but it wouldn’t be an NWSL competition without a bit of drama and it was Houston and Chicago Red Stars who found themselves in the final.
The NWSL Challenge Cup, a 23-match tournament, was the first sport to return in America following the Coronavirus pandemic and Daly was a shining star of the tournament for Houston Dash scoring three goals and gaining two assists to make her the NWSL Challenge Cup tournament MVP and Golden Boot winner.
Daly played a total of 614 minutes over seven games during the NWSL Challenge Cup for Houston. She scored two in the opening game against Utah Royals in what was a 3-3 goal thriller, she then got the game winning goal against the Portland Thorns in the semi-final match which sent Houston Dash to their first Championship game.
The NWSL Challenge Cup was a hit with sports fans with Houston Dash’s 2-0 victory over Chicago Red Stars being the league’s most-watched game ever. It averaged around 653,000 viewers beating the previous record set from the opening game of the tournament between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage. Those two games were the only ones broadcast on over-the-air CBS, with the rest being streamed across platforms like Twitch. It’s unclear if there will be any more NWSL matches in the remaining months of 2020 and what kind of format they will be aired on.
Rachel Daly is one of the few English players playing in the American League and she is certainly the commander of Houston Dash that has, in the last few weeks, emerged as a team ready to change their luck. Daly has been the star of Houston Dash for a long time now and she proved just how valuable of a team member she is during this tournament.
Some people have questioned why Rachel Daly has committed herself to the American leagues for as long as she has. A key player in the England set up should have numerous clubs across Europe asking for her signature but after being drafted by Houston in 2016, she has become a team leader and elevated herself to the next level so arguably there is no better place for her to be.
Looking ahead to the future, Daly is key to the future set up of Houston Dash and what they want to achieve. Her versatility is well-recognised and both current and former coaches have spoken highly of the player throughout her career, she often plays fullback for both the Dash and England which hasn’t always helped considering the standard of the players she plays with such as Lucy Bronze and she can’t quite become the starting forward, especially for England, with the likes of Ellen White, Jodie Taylor, and Nikkita Parris ahead of her.
However, you have to take note of Daly’s Challenge Cup tournament and vital she was as it proved just how consistent of a scorer and player she can be and she did win the golden boot in a tournament that had some very good forward players. Many outlets have praised Daly for her performances in the Challenge Cup but she want to keep this momentum going and has said in recent weeks that she is not opposed to going out on loan.
“I am looking to go out on loan, that is no secret” she said. “Where? I’m not sure yet. Is it even possible? I’m not sure yet. But I have to put myself in the best possible to come back next season better than I was this season and do what it takes to earn a spot on the Olympic team”.
There’s no doubt that Rachel Daly would make an excellent addition to any European team, especially those taking part in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in just over a week’s time, and there are bound to be several clubs keeping an eye on Daly’s situation but, it’s a question of what team will she fit best in to and who will be first to get her signature.