The Houston Dash are out on the road for their first away match in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. Houston takes on Racing Louisville tonight at Lynn Family Stadium in Kentucky. The Dash are coming off a 3-1 loss Sunday evening at PNC Stadium at the hands of the Chicago Red Stars. Louisville is coming off a 1-1 draw in the Challenge Cup opener against Kansas City Current. Can Houston pick up their first win of the tournament?
In any given soccer game you hear it, set pieces are huge, they can make or break a game for a team. The Houston Dash are no exception. Sunday’s lone goal in the loss to Chicago came off a set piece. Maria Sanchez displayed some fancy footwork attacking on the left side and drew a foul to set up a dangerous opportunity. Rachel Daly took the free kick, and her enticing ball found its way to Katie Naughton at the back post to open the scoring. If the Dash are going to score goals at a high rate this year, look for set pieces to be a big part of that.
The captain shall lead them
Rachel Daly is a captain in so many ways. Her fiery personality gets the most out of her teammates and her play on the field helps drive the offense. Daly put up an impressive 0.88 expected goals on Sunday (according to American Soccer Analysis data) and her 6 shots and 2 led the team. The England international was getting in good positions against Chicago and had some good chances, she just couldn’t find the back of the net. With Sanchez and Nichelle Prince on the wings, Daly should get more chances tonight, and if she can convert the Dash will be coming back to Houston with 3 points.
Midfield stepping up
Daly, Sanchez, and Prince are a strong front 3 but the Dash are going to need their midfield to step up. The 3 central midfielders in a 4-3-3 play a big role in getting the ball to Daly, and wide to the wings, and Sunday they did not do a great job of that. Shea Groom, who is now wearing the number 10, played 63 minutes, and only had 13 passes, completing 76.9%. Newcomer Kelci Hedge also played 63 minutes and completed just 65.4% of her passes. With Sophie Schmidt moving to center back, someone in the midfield is going to have to step up tonight. Marisa Viggiano’s 97.2% pass completion was second highest on the team so look for her to potentially be on the ball more tonight in Louisville.
Houston Dash – Out: Emily Ogle (knee); Questionable: Paulina Gramaglia (COVID protocols)
Racing Louisville – Out: Nadia Nadim (right leg)