• Dan Berridge

Preview: Houston Dash (a).

When? Saturday 26 June, 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET and ,1 a.m. BST (27/6).

Where? BBVA Stadium, Houston, TX.

How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States, and on Twitch (Twitch app or twitch.tv) for international fans.


Another day, another game for the Orlando Pride. After their thoroughly enjoyable win over Houston, the Pride have had to dash across to Texas, pun intended (I'm not even sorry). This will be another stern examination of the Pride's title aspirations. Another long road trip, just a few days after their trip to Missouri will test the Pride's mental and physical resolve, just as much as their squad depth. The Dash have also had a full rest week, unlike the Pride. I imagine Marc Skinner will make more than a few changes as he looks to extend his side's unbeaten start to the season.

This Houston side is one that is full of quality, and they shouldn't be underestimated. James Clarkson's side are a tougher proposition than their 9th place position would suggest. Players like Kristie Mewis and Shea Groom can hurt you on their day. This will be a tough game for Orlando, but one I'm confident they can win.


Houston's style


This Houston team is one that has a clear identity, in terms of the way it plays. And it's been effective for them in the past. They are blessed with an abundance of ball playing midfielders such as Shea Groom and Kristie Mewis, who utilise the pace and quality of the likes of Nichelle Prince to get the ball into wide areas and hit the likes of Veronica Latsko with their high crosses into the box. They're also not afraid to shoot, as the statistics in figures 1 and 2 emphasise. They are the third most prolific team in the NWSL, in terms of shots on goal (73). That being said, they also have one of the worst conversion rates (8.2%).

As I alluded to previously, however, they do get a lot of balls into the box. They've hit 100 open play crosses (figure 3) so far this season, at a rate of 16.6 crosses per game. Of those 100 crosses, 25 have found a Dash player. That's a very respectable 4.2 crosses per game, finding an orange jersey. Rachel Daly has been the main beneficiary of those crosses, with 2 headed goals. Fortunately for us, she's not available for this game (see team news). Houston are definitely a dangerous team, underestimate them at your peril. Before we move onto the next subsection; just an interesting tidbit. The Dash lead the league in yellow card accumulation with 15. So, you know... Getting under their skin a bit, mightn't be the worst thing in the world.

Figure 1 shows Houston's shooting statistics from their game in Louisville.

Figure 2 shows Houston's conversion statistics on the season so far, and the types of goal they've scored.

Figure 3 shows how many crosses have been made by Houston players so far this season.


Team news


Houston Dash don't have any injury worries as of right now, but do have one international absence. Rachel Daly has already met up with Team GB at their training camp in Loughborough, England. Allysha Chapman, Nichelle Prince and, of course, Kristie Mewis are all expected to be available for this one, and will join their respective camps after this game.


Similarly for the Orlando Pride Alex Morgan, Ali Riley, Erin McLeod and Marta have been called up to their respective Olympic squads, but will not join until after this weekend. Meanwhile Carrie Lawrence (illness) and Jade Moore (injury) are both expected to miss out. The Pride are also sweating on the fitness of Taylor Kornieck and Abi Kim following the injuries acquired in their win over Kansas City. Kornieck's injury isn't as bad as first feared, but neither player has a clear return timeline.

Possible starting XI

Coming into this game off the back of a full rest week, and with this game expected to be the last one before they lose their Olympic players, I'd be surprised to see anything but a full strength XI. The Dash need to get back to winning ways, and will likely need to have as many of their top stars on the field as possible, to get anything from this game.


Their pace in the wide forward areas may be just the caveat to address the threat Orlando's full-backs possess, particularly if Taylor Kornieck's fit enough to play. Houston doesn't have a lot of height in their team, so they won't want to allow space for the likes of Courtney Petersen to find Kornieck with her crosses. As such I wouldn't expect to see any changes from their last game, lining up in their familiar 4-3-3 formation as so:


Top player


Shea Groom

I feel like Kristie Mewis would be the obvious choice here. That being said, Shea Groom is one of the key players in Houston's midfield. Groom has featured in all 6 of her teams games this season (as a starter), though she has only completed 90 minutes once. An energetic midfielder, with a good range of passing, she is integral to how this Dash team likes to play. She has 1 goals, and 1 assist on the season with a further 10 key passes in total. Groom also does her fair share of work on the defensive side, winning 75% of her 8 tackles, as well as completing 7 interceptions and 2 clearances. She's been problematic for the Pride before. Orlando's midfield will need to get to grips with the talented


Form


This hasn't been the most memorable of season's for the Dash so far. Last season's NWSL Challenge Cup winners are currently lying 2nd from bottom following their latest defeat, this time in Louisville. Former Bristol City striker, Ebony Salmon confined the Dash to their 3rd defeat of the season last weekend. They are currently 2-1-3, having won 2 of their last 3 games. There had been a slight uptick before their game in Kentucky m


The Pride, meanwhile, remain undefeated after their impressive win in Kansas City. The Pride are currently 4-3-0, and currently sit atop the NWSL Standings with a 3 point cushion on the second placed Portland Thorns. The win over Kansas was their second road win of the season. Orlando will be looking to make it 3, with another big win in Texas.

*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com