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Dash back in action with trip to Gotham: What to watch for

The Dash are in New Jersey this afternoon for a clash with Gotham FC.

NWSL: Chicago Red Stars at Houston Dash Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dash return from a one week break and travel to the Big Apple (well, New Jersey) to take on Gotham FC. The Dash are coming off a 4-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars their last time out, led by Ebony Salmon’s hat trick. Gotham lost to the Portland Thorns 5-0 in their last NWSL match on July 16. This will be the first meeting between the two teams in 2022. Their last match up was almost a year ago, when the Dash hosted Gotham at PNC Stadium on August 1.

The girls are back in town

Five internationals return for the Dash this week, with only Rachel Daly still away with England in today’s EURO final. Canadians Allysha Chapman, Sophie Schmidt, and Nichelle Prince, along with Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie and Cameroon’s Michaela Abam returned to practice this week and should be available for selection today. Goalkeeper Jane Campbell and defender Julia Ashley will also be available today after missing the Chicago match because of COVID protocol. The Dash aren’t at 100% full strength yet but having nearly a full squad will be a welcome sign for interim head coach Juan Carlos Amorós.

“Realistically, they have to enter that training,” Amorós said Saturday. “I said that from from day one. That’s part of our values, like they have to engage. But we will have to wait and make the final decisions tomorrow because, as you said, some of the of the players that maybe weren’t that regular, they really performed fantastically in the last game. They’ve done really well at training. And the same with the international players that just came back. They really can bring a lot to the team. So it will be a difficult choice and one that really is my responsibility to make. So I will do what I think is best for the team to be ready to compete, not only at the beginning of the game, which is where everyone talks about lineups where you have to compete throughout 90 minutes. Now we have five subs, so I really want to have a team that is very competitive in every position so I’ve got more tools to be able to do that.”

Salmon fishing for goals

Ebony Salmon won NWSL Player of the Week honors for her hat-trick the last time out against Chicago. Salmon looks to be fitting in quite well with her new team after coming over in a trade with Racing Louisville. Salmon will once again lead the line today with Daly still on international duty. Fellow hat-trick scorer Nichelle Prince is available today, marking the first time Salmon could share the field with the Canadian. Amorós could start a front three of Maria Sanchez, Salmon, and Prince. That will leave coaches around NWSL with some sleepless nights.

Tough road trip

The Dash kick off their two-game road trip today in New Jersey before flying across the country to Seattle to take on OL Reign next Sunday. The NWSL table is very tight and the Dash have been good on the road this season, winning three of their six matches away from PNC Stadium. Points on the road are vital in any league and the Dash will be looking to grab as many as they can on their cross country trek.

“Being on the road is always more difficult than playing at home,” midfielder Sophie Schmidt said this week. “There’s different factors that you have to consider. But at the same time, we have expectations of these next two games. We know that Gotham is going to be you know fighting hard to get some points. They’ve been struggling for a bit. So we know it’s going to be a very tough game. And we’re ready for that. And then Seattle or Tacoma next weekend. But we’re really just focusing one game at a time, trying to get the most out of ourselves and the points on the road that we can get.

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); International Duty: Rachel Daly (England)

Gotham FC – Out: Allie Long (maternity leave), Domi Richardson (right knee - season-ending injury), Ifeoman Onumonu (COVID protocol); Questionable: Estelle Johnson (right ankle)