The Houston Dash kick off a new era tonight at PNC Stadium against the Chicago Red Stars. Interim head coach Juan Carlos Amorós will lead the Dash in his first match tonight. Amorós previously coached Real Betis and Tottenham Hotspur in Europe, and this will be his first match managing in NWSL. Houston last played on Friday night, falling to the Orlando Pride on the road by a score of 1-0. Chicago played on Sunday, coming back from 0-2 down to draw with the North Carolina Courage 2-2. The Red Stars currently sit in second place in the NWSL standings, five points ahead of the sixth-place Dash. Chicago won both matches between the two teams earlier this year in the NWSL Challenge Cup.
Amorós takes charge
After waiting some time to receive his visa, Juan Carlos Amorós has arrived in Houston and will take charge of his first match tonight as the Dash’s interim head coach. Amorós arrived this week and led the team through training leading up to tonight’s match. Amorós spoke this week about arriving in Houston and getting straight to work. “It’s been amazing to be honest,” he said in his first weekly press conference. “The players, the staff, the fans, the club – everyone has been extremely welcoming. It was difficult because I traveled to Houston on Sunday and landed here and started on Monday morning. With the effort from everyone and the willingness to work, it has just made everything really easy, and the transition has been absolutely brilliant. So hopefully tomorrow we can start showing a little bit of that work that we’re doing.” The Dash will hope Amorós can hope turn things around to get back to the win column, after losing their last two matches after returning from the international break.
Not only do the Dash players have to adjust to multiple players being out, including goalkeeper Jane Campbell and defender Julia Ashley who are now in COVID protocols, but now they have had less than a week to adjust to a new coach. Amorós will not change the entire mentality and tactics of the team in short time. He said this week his first goal this week “was just getting to know everyone personally.”
With a new coach in charge, however, the players still have some things to adjust to. Midfielder Bri Visalli spoke in the press conference this week about adjusting to a new coach. “It’s not necessarily ideal because you’re getting different cooks in the kitchen, so to speak,” Visalli said. “That might be challenging for players to adapt specifically to what is required or, tactically speaking what division is. Adversity really pulls a team together. So, I’ve seen, in my opinion, a positive external approach, but it’s obviously very different. The systems are different, the styles of play are different. With Juan, it’s not necessarily that we’re reinventing the wheel either. It’s just, at least this last week been a reminder of what makes teams successful.”
Chicago’s varied attack
The Red Stars are without USWNT striker Mallory Pugh, who scored four goals against the Dash in the two Challenge Cup matches. Even without Pugh in the lineup, Chicago has been able to maintain their offensive firepower. Since returning from the international break, the Red Starts have scored five goals in two matches, scored by five different players on the Chicago roster. Sarah Griffith and Amanda Kowalski scored for Chicago last week in second-half stoppage time to rescue a point. If the Dash can get an early lead, they can’t sleep on the Red Stars, even with Pugh not in the lineup.
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), Jane Campbell (COVID protocol), Julia Ashley (COVID protocol); International Duty: Rachel Daly (England), Michelle Alozie (Nigeria), Allysha Chapman (Canada), Nichelle Prince (Canada), Sophie Schmidt (Canada), Michaela Abam (Cameroon)
Chicago Red Stars – Out: Tierna Davidson (right knee - season-ending injury), Morgan Gautrat (left calf), Casey Krueger (maternity leave), Kayla Sharples (left knee), Kealia Watt (maternity leave), Sarah Woldmoe (maternity leave); International Duty: Chelsie Dawber (Australia), Alyssa Naeher (USA), Mallory Pugh (USA), Bianca St. Georges (Canada)