NWSL soccer is on its way back to Texas. Despite one unnamed Houston player testing positive for COVID-19 this week, the Dash will walk out under the BBVA floodlights to face off against the Orlando Pride on Saturday evening. Both Bridgette Andrejewski (general illness) and Erin Simon (personal reasons) have been ruled out for the match.
The player in question tested positive on two consecutive tests, conducted Monday and Tuesday, before then commencing a 14 day self-isolation. The rest of the Dash team and coaching staff has been required to produce consecutive negative test results before being deemed fit to return to practice. Dash training sessions resumed last Thursday having been suspended since Monday.
This week the Dash also announced who they will be competing for in the NWSL Community Shield. The Dash have nominated the NAACP of Houston as the recipient of their prize money if they rank in the top three spots of the NWSL league table. The team with the most points at the end of the Fall Series will be awarded the Verizon Community Shield. $25,000 will be awarded to the community partner of the team with the most points, with the second-place team donating $15,000 and the third-place team $10,000.
The NAACP is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the country that strives to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race. “We discussed a foundation that we wanted to choose based on a lot of research we did on the Houston community. Being such a diverse city, we knew there was a lot out there, but the NAACP stood out to us because it dives right into the community in a smaller aspect and then branches into bigger,” Dash captain Jane Campbell said.
You couldn’t take your eye off the thrilling 4-3 defeat to the North Carolina Courage in the Dash’s opening match of the Fall Series. An unpredictable, loose but fun affair, that saw Houston show off everything good and bad about them. Contrasting with the Dash, the Pride opened their Fall Series with a 0-0 against the Courage. An impressive defensive effort considering their squad had not played an NWSL match in 11 months. The Pride were expelled from the Challenge Cup in June, after 10 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the week leading up to the tournament.
Unlike their abysmal record against the Courage, the Dash have got the better of the Pride over the years. Houston are undefeated in their past five meetings against Orlando, winning four and drawing one. Is this when the Dash finally end their streak of four years and 14 days since they won without Rachel Daly?
Where to watch: TWITCH
Last meeting: Pride 0-1 Dash (8/10/2019)
All time record: 7 - 4 - 1
Here’s three things to watch out for.
Hold It Down Homecoming
It may not be quite how they imagined it, but principal Dash players will be taking the field at BBVA for the first time. Woven into club folklore, after their exploits at the Challenge Cup, home debuts for Shea Groom, Katie Naughton and Megan Oyster in particular are sure to make a memorable night in H-town. Continuing her outstanding form from Utah, Groom was arguably the player of the match for the Dash against the Courage. Groom’s bullish forward pressing, gut busting runs and cerebral awareness of her teammates ought to catch the eye of fans who have been starved of seeing their heroines in Texas.
Elsewhere in the squad, Katie Stengel and Bri Visalli are both in line to make their Houston debuts in the XI or off the bench. Canadian striker Meagan Kelly could make her debut but will face stiff competition from Veronica Latsko, who opened her account for the season away in North Carolina. With Allysha Chapman out serving a suspension, after her red card against the Courage, we could see new signing Lauren Silver feature at left or right back. Silver is also joined by the newly recruited forward Shaina Ashouri, and midfielder Jaci Jones.
USWNT Keeper Tryouts
Making up for lost time, after 11 months without a match, Pride goalie Ashlyn Harris put on quite a display as she restricted the Courage’s star studded duo of Lynn Williams and Debinha to zero goals. The frantic Harris charged out of her goalkeeping box several times in the match, surviving every surge. The save of the match coming in the second half, when she miraculously kept out Debinha from point blank range. A hopeful outstretched leg, combined with a feline like instinctual palm, denied the Brazilian when a goal seemed to be the only outcome.
The charismatic shot stopper has been a constant squad member of USWNT since 2013, although the vast majority of Harris’ tenure with the national team has been as the second or third choice keeper. On Saturday night, the biggest threat to her maintaining her role with the USWNT will be standing in the opposite goal. Dash keeper Jane Campbell is coming off an impressive Challenge Cup that included three consecutive clean sheets in the knockout rounds as well as a dominant display in the penalty shootout versus the Utah Royals. Campbell is 10 years Harris’ junior and could be a more long term option for coach Vlatko Andonovski to usher in before the Olympics in 2021. In an eerie twist of fate, Campbell actually made her USWNT debut back in 2017 replacing Harris at half time. Could a strong showing, when directly facing off against Harris, be the catalyst to turn Andonovski’s head?
WHAT?! @Ashlyn_Harris— NWSL (@NWSL) September 19, 2020
Still all ◻️ between @TheNCCourage and @ORLPride.
0-0 | #NCvORL
Tune in now on @CBS and @Twitch.#NWSLFallSeries | #VerizonCommunityShield pic.twitter.com/To9kELoUqU
Marta and the Wings
The Brazilian camisa dez will be impossible to miss. Swift feet, hot temper; the BBVA grass, beneath Marta’s very feet, will be on edge when she dribbles peerlessly on the ball. Quite simply, she is a legend of the game.
Pride coach Marc Skinner, likes to deploy Marta as a wide attacking player in a 4-2-3-1. Last week, against the Courage’s back three, Marta was a roaming threat throughout. Almost always in a one on one situation with a center-back, she showed no fear taking on Ally Dahlkemper and lunging into the spacious wide areas.
The Courage’s back three were unable to commit too much to Marta because the Pride are complimented on the other wing by Sydney Leroux. The two wide players interlinked often, switching the play across the field and targeting the space around the edges of the Courage box. The Dash will line up with a back four, allowing for a center back to assist the fullback at times. Hayley Hanson, one of the Dash’s quietly impressive players, will have her hands full.