Preview: Houston Dash (h).
When? Friday July 8, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? This game will be broadcast on Twitch for both domestic and international supporters.
The Orlando Pride host the Houston Dash, looking for their first win in basically forever. The Pride can take confidence from their spirited performance against Racing Louisville at Daytona SoccerFest, as they came from 2 goals down to claim a respectable 2-2 draw.
The Houston Dash are a good side, though. So this won't be an easy game at all. Alas, Houston are without star forward Rachel Daly. Daly helped the Lionesses get their Euro 2022 campaign off to a winning start, starting in the 1-0 victory over Austria in front of 69,000 fans (including myself) at Old Trafford. She'll be a huge loss for Houston. They're also without a number of other big names, but more on that later...
Houston will provide a tough test, but they'll do so without some of their best players. The likes of Maria Sanchez, Rachel Daly etc (see team news) are all missing this one, which provides Orlando with something of an opportunity.
Houston typically set up with a 3 back system, where the emphasis is on one of the centre backs, usually the left and right centre backs, to step out with the ball and start attacks from their own defensive line. Ali Prisock and Julia Ashley have both done a great job of stepping out and playing passes into midfield (figures 1 & 2). They then like to get the likes of Marisa Viggiano and Sophie Schmidt on the ball and allow them to break lines, and feed the ball to the likes of Shea Groom to get the chains moving. They then use their pace in attack, with the likes of Ebony Salmon to stretch the opposing defensive line.
All that being said, they're not great at keeping possession; they rank 11th for accurate passes per match with 260, and average just 43.7% possession per game. So the turnovers are going to be key for Orlando. Their off field controversies and international call ups certainly haven't helped them. This will be a tough game, but it's one ai believe Orlando can win.
Figure 1 shows Ali Prisock's pass positioning matrix vs Kansas City.
Figure 2 shows Julia Ashley's pass positioning matrix vs Kansas City.
As per the player availability report, Houston Dash are set to be without Annika Schmidt and Kelcie Hedge, who are both on the season ending injury list. Rachel Daly, Sophie Schmidt, Alyssa Chapman, Nichelle Prince, Maria Sanchez, Michelle Alozie and Michaela Abam are all away on international duty.
The Pride, on the other hand, are without Angharad James and Leah Pruitt. Julie Doyle is listed as out but is in training. Marta continues to be absent.
Possible starting XI
The Houston Dash tend to prefer a back 3, using their wing-backs to supplement their attack, whilst playing a number 10 behind their 2 main strikers. Shea Groom usually operates in that role, but isn't having the best of seasons so far, with only 2 assists and 0 goals in her 10 games this season. Regardless, I think they'll name an unchanged team from their defeat to Kansas City:
A recent addition from Racing Louisville. Salmon scored 6 goals in 14 starts and 6 substitute appearances in 2021 for the Kentucky based outfit, following her transfer from Bristol City, where she scored 18 goals in 45 games for a side that regularly battled relegation in the WSL. Salmon will be looking to fight her way back into England contention with regular game time in Texas. A typical off the shoulder striker, Salmon is quick and has a keen eye for goal. Orlando will need to ensure they mark her tightly in this game.
Houston have 1 win in their last 4, as they've struggled without their international stars. The Dash are currently 5th with a 4-3-3 record.
The Pride, on the other hand, are winless in their last 6 and are currently 11th with a 2-3-5 record.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Top player image courtesy of Houston Dash.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com