Rachel Daly: “Although it is a massive honor for me and my family, I came into this tournament with higher expectations and higher hopes – that is to bring the championship back to Houston.” (Photo courtesy of the Houston Dash)

Houston Dash captain and forward Rachel Daly Saturday was named MVP of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.

Daly and her Houston teammates will meet the Chicago Red Stars in Sunday’s final.

A skillful, physical and intense forward, the former St. Johns University standout has been a crucial piece to the Dash’s success. Of Houston’s six goals, Daly has played a role in four.

“It’s a massive honor to be named the MVP of this tournament, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without my amazing teammates, staff, fans and the city of Houston,” Daly said. “Although it is a massive honor for me and my family, I came into this tournament with higher expectations and higher hopes – that is to bring the championship back to Houston.”

Daly opened her tournament run, scoring a brace in the first game played against Utah Royals FC. The England international leads the team with three goals and is tied with North Carolina Courage forward Lynn Williams in the Golden Boot race with three goals and assist apiece. Daly can claim the Golden Boot with a goal or an assist in the final.

“This is thoroughly deserved for her play and leadership, and it wouldn’t be possible without the team,” Dash head coach James Clarkson said. “This is great recognition for her, the team and the club.”

As the team captain, the Harrogate, England native has helped instill a strong team mentality throughout the tournament, reminding the squad that “our circle does not break.”

Daly joined the Dash in 2016 after being selected as the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft and has held at least a share of the team’s Golden Boot award in each of the last three years. She scored three game-winning goals in 2019 and played a key role in Houston’s fast start to the season under then first-year head coach Clarkson.

Daly scored a career-high 10 goals in her third season with the club and finished with three NWSL team of the month honors in 2018. The forward was named to the NWSL Second XI and was named the club’s MVP. She led the team in goals with five in 2017 despite playing as a defender for a portion of the season.

Daly played in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final with England. During the Lionesses’ run in France last summer, she saw action in five of seven matches and started in two, including the semifinal against the United States. Daly has scored three goals and earned 29 caps internationally while splitting time as a forward and outside back.

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