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Dash set for playoff debut at a packed PNC Stadium: What to watch for

The Dash host the Kansas City Current at PNC Stadium in today’s NWSL quarterfinal match

NWSL: Kansas City Current at Houston Dash Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dash make their playoff debut this afternoon at PNC Stadium, hosting the Kasnas City Current in the quarterfinal round of the NWSL postseason. This will also be the plyoff debut for the Current. The Dash passed Kansas City in the standings on the final day of the regular season, meaning today’s game will be played at a nearly full (if not completely full) PNC Stadium. The Current won 3 of the 4 meetings between the two teams this season, including in the NWSL Challenge Cup. Kansas City won twice at PNC Stadium in 2022.

Packed house

The Dash have smashed the previous attendance record of 13,025 for today’s game, with now over 18,000 tickets sold and closing in on a sell-out of 20,000. The atmosphere is going to be incredible as the team takes the field for the first time in club history in a postseason match. Captain Jane Campbell spoke on Friday about expecting a record-breaking crowd. “It’s great for the club,” Campbell said. “In my six years being here, attendance has always been a goal of ours to get it higher and higher every year. There’s years where it’s much higher across the league, like World Cup years and Olympic years. For us to be, the World Cup is next year, obviously, but for us to be in a year where there isn’t much and attendance is going up through the roof throughout the whole NWSL. That’s really, really exciting for the league and exciting for each of the organizations, and I hope every club, as years go on, reaches new attendance records and sells out. For Houston, we have such an amazing market here with the Dynamo as well, and all the sports teams right in the middle of the city. I think it’s just a huge opportunity for us as an organization to really get fans into our stadium and make them fans for life. I don’t want them to just come to one game, I want them to come all the time and have kids come and friends come. It’s awesome that it’s our first playoff berth. It’s at home. What a better way to celebrate just the club in general for fans to come out and hopefully put on a show for them. It’s great.”

Break before the playoffs

Houston played their final NWSL regular season match on October 1, with the last two weeks seeing teams taking a break for international play. Dash players Ebony Salmon, Maria Sanchez, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt, and Allysha Chapman spent time playing with their countries, while the rest of their Houston teammates remained in Houston prepping for today’s game. The added rest means every one is available for the Dash today. Interim head coach Juan Carlos Amorós has the players ready and his message to the team this week has been to enjoy where they’re at. “It’s a question of enjoying every day and seeing the preparation has been great,” Amorós told the media this week. “Like, every day, our training is of a different because it’s different than a regular season game. It’s also the build up to everything that goes around the event, there is media coverage, there are more fans engaging, there are more, more things every day. The players have worked really hard to get into this position and it’s not only about the game, it’s about enjoying every day, what we do, time with our teammates building up to this game, because, you know, like, life is short. Things go really quick. It’s important that they embrace it and that they are as ready as possible for the game on Sunday.”

Home cooking

Houston finished with 36 points this season in 22 games but had just 13 in 11 home games. Kansas City won twice at PNC Stadium, once in the regular season. Maybe the Dash would have secretly preferred a playoff match on the road but the chance to perform in front of a record crowd is something that can’t be turned down, even if they wanted to. Amorós knows the team has struggled at home but just one of the team’s losses this season at PNC has been under the interim boss. Amorós trusts this group of players to come out and perform today with the bright lights on them. “Well, to be honest, what you can control is the way you play and then work on the situations that guides you in the games in both boxes If I’m honest, we’ve done in some of those home games that we haven’t won, we’ve done much more to win that some of the games that we’ve played away and we won,” Amorós said Friday. “So realistically, sometimes you need the ball to go in the back of the net and if it doesn’t, or if it does, you know, then you can make some mistakes or there’s some errors and it’s a draw. If you look at everything around it, like the games at home that we’ve played, we should have won. Maybe the OL Reign game was a bit different and a bit more even but all the other ones like even the OL Reign game, in terms of data. We have had some maybe lapses of concentration in the back that we haven’t had away and we’ve been more clinical away than we’ve been at home but realistically, we don’t do anything different. We play, we prepare and sometimes when you are away from home it works and when you are home it works as well. The record, I think we’ve lost one game at home if I’m not mistaken, at least since I’m here, it was the OL Reign game. I think every other game that finished in a draw, we should have won and then another two, we won them. So it’s not special, you know, we don’t do anything different. We just work always to make sure we are as ready as we can to, to win. I’m sure if we create the chances that we’ve created most of our home games, which is something I’m happy with. I really trust this group of players to get them in and don’t have those gaps in concentration that we had at the back.”

Availability Report

Houston Dash - Out: Annika Schmidt (right knee - season-ending injury), Kelcie Hedge (right knee - season-ending injury), Makamae Gomera-Stevens (left knee - season-ending injury), Ella Dederick (right knee); Questionable: Allysha Chapman (left leg)

Kansas City Current – Out: Jaycie Johnson (right leg), Sam Mewis (season-ending injury - right leg), Mallory Weber (season-ending injury - right leg), Lynn Williams (season-ending injury - right leg), Desiree Scott (Suspension)