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Match Preview: Dash to take on Spirit at home

Houston look to top fifth-place Washington

Nina Burger is just one of many players returning to Houston Dash's line up this weekend.
Nina Burger is just one of many players returning to Houston Dash's line up this weekend.

It's been a month since the Houston Dash last went up against the Washington Spirit. During that game at the end of May, Houston fell to Washington 3-2 in stoppage time after battling back twice to equalize. The Dash will host the Spirit this Saturday, however, and look to their home field advantage to top the east coast visitors.

Spirit in defeat

The Washington Spirit may be currently sitting in the fifth spot of the NWSL table, but their last three games have been anything but pretty. After two 2-0 games against the Boston Breakers and the Portland Thorns, they were slammed in a second game against the Thorns June 21, losing 6-1.

Clearly the defense is a bit shaky for the Spirit. Even with USWNT international Ali Krieger, the Spirit are finding it difficult to dial in the right combination for their defense.

But while the defense might leave something to be desired for the Washington Spirit, their offense is quite formidable. The Dash will need to keep their eyes on forward Jodi Taylor. She is currently sitting fourth in the league for goals thus far in the season. She is right in front of midfielder Diana Matheson. Matheson will probably cause the biggest headache for Houston. Not only is she fifth in the league for goals, she is also third in the league for assists.

Washington will be turning to Taylor and Matheson to pull them out of their losing streak and keep them in the middle of the table. Houston will need to be able to keep these two from completing plays to one another and breaking down and attempts to get these two in front of goal.

Dash looking for stability

It's been two weeks since the stoppage time heart-break the Houston Dash suffered against FC Kansas City. Though the team was without many key players due to international play, the remaining players battled hard before the 90+ goal. Since that match, the Houston Dash have played a friendly against the FC Dallas ECNL U-23 team. In that match up, Houston had a blowout with a 8-1 win.

With the international break closed, Houston will be happy to have keeper Erin McLeod, defenders Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg, midfielder Kaylyn Kyle and forward Nina Burger back and available for Saturday's match. The stability of Engen and Klingenberg will be a great advantage for the Dash on the back line. Though fans have seen great performances from Osinachi Ohale and Marissa Diggs in the back, help from the two USWNT players will ground the defense.

Up top, Burger will be in to pester the weak Spirit defense. She's been struggling a bit thus far to break into scoring regularly for Houston. With any luck, she'll be able to poach on Washington and tally some goals. Also, Tiffany McCarty continues to be an asset to the Houston offense, as does rookie Kealia Ohai who continues to settle more and more with each game. It'll be important for Houston to keep possession and exploit the weaknesses of the Washington back line.

Kick off is set for 8 p.m. CT Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.

*Editor's Note- Meghan Klingenberg and Teresa Noyola were listed on the NWSL injury report as out for this match due to injury. Bianca Henninger is listed as probable.