• Dan Berridge

Preview: Houston Dash (a).

When? Saturday September 26 5.30 p.m. PT, 8.30 p.m. ET, 1.30 a.m. BST (27/9).

Where? BBVA Stadium, Houston, TX.

How can I catch the action? This game will be broadcast both nationally and internationally via Twitch.


I feel like I'm in a daze right now. Seriously. This blog has been up and running since before the quarantines kicked in. All of that time we've been looking forward to the day where we can finally cover the Orlando Pride. And it's finally here! The second game of this fall series, sees Marc Skinner's squad head to Houston where they will go head-to-head with the NWSL Challenge Cup Champions.


So without further ado, let's dive straight into this fixture...


The Dash's style


During the NWSL Challenge Cup, the Dash prided themselves (geddit? The jokes don't get any better, sorry) on being a team that was hard to beat. They do have many more strings to their bow, however. In the absence of the talismanic Rachel Daly, expect much of their play to come through Shea Groom. The midfielder gets up and down the field well, contributing almost as much on defence as offence. If you take a look at her touch map from the NWSL Challenge Cup final against Chicago in figure 1, you'll see what I mean. Groom makes this team tick with her range of passing. The Pride will need to get on top of her, and not allow her to play if they want to win this game.


Figure 1 shows Shea Groom's touchmap from the NWSL Challenge Cup final.


It's hard to believe, but the Dash had a spell where they found goals hard to come by in the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Dash registered 3 scoreless games on their way to winning the tournament, but did show glimpses of attacking fortitude such as their opening day 3-3 draw with the Utah Royals. Their 2-0 wins over Reign FC and the Chicago Red Stars, also displayed the attacking impotus they possess. More of the same was evidenced during their recent 4-3 reversal at the hands of the Courage. They're a team that seem to be slowly finding their scoring boots. They're not the most direct of teams, look at their passing numbers from the North Carolina game in figure 2. They do, however, create chances aplenty. This will be a solid test for Orlando.

Figure 2 shows some statistics from Houston's game against the North Carolina Courage.


Team news


The Dash definitely have a fuller compliment of their established roster, by comparison to the Orlando Pride at least. The Pride currently has 12 players out on loan, as Orlando's front office focus on the 2021 NWSL Season. Despite that fact, Orlando were the beneficiaries of several encouraging debuts in their 0-0 draw with the Courage last week.


The likes of Carrie Lawrence, Courtney Petersen and Jordyn Listro all impressed for the Pride. Alongside established stars such as Ali Krieger and Marta, the rookies gave an excellent account of themselves. The aforementioned players certainly did their chances of earning more permanent deals no harm.


At the time of recording there were no fitness concerns or issues for Marc Skinner to ponder ahead of this match-up.


The same can certainly be said of the Houston Dash, who have largely kept their squad together during the recess. Rachel Daly's departure to West Ham United being the most notable departure.


Possible starting XI


Houston are a team I covered a fair bit for the NWSL Show during the Challenge Cup. They're a compact outfit, who pride themselves on being hard to beat. Sorry, I didn't mean to write the same pun for a second time, I swear. I digress. Clarkson will have doubtless been concerned about the manner in which they shipped 4 goals in Cary, NC against the Courage a few weeks ago. Adapting to life without Rachel Daly won't have been an easy transition for the Dash.


Despite the disappointing nature of their defeat at WakeMed, there were still plenty of positives for Clarkson to take from the game. For this reason I think he will name an unchanged line-up. Their deserved victory in the Challenge Cup has helped Clarkson to instil a winning mentality within his squad. As such he will want to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.


Top player


Shea Groom



Missouri native Groom recovered from a disappointing 2019 season. A season where the midfielder only scored 2 goals from 16 games, whilst recording a 52.3% pass completion rate. She has since gone on to star in the NWSL Challenge Cup. She started all 7 games in Utah, chalking up 1 assist and scoring 3 herself. One of those 3 goals, memorably came in the final to seal the victory. Her pass completion rate improved to 64%, with 42.7% of her successful passes being forward balls. She's dynamic, a risk taker; a truly valuable commodity in the NWSL. She certainly has the potential to establish herself as one of the best players in this league moving forward. She's 27 now, moving into her prime. You get the sense that the best is yet to come from Groom.


Form


The reigning NWSL Challenge Cup Champions head into this match against the Pride off of the back of a discouraging loss to the Courage earlier this month. They will be looking to bounce back in this one.


Orlando, meanwhile, will have taken a lot of encouragement from holding the same opponent to a scoreless draw last time out. Their first competitive game in almost a year.



All statistics courtesy of @NWSLAnalatica on Twitter and nwslsoccer.com

Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com



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