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Dash return home to continue playoff push: What to watch for

The Dash are back at PNC Stadium tonight looking to continue their playoff push.

NWSL: Houston Dash at Racing Louisville FC EM Dash-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dash return home after two big road wins, looking to continue their push for the playoffs. Racing Louisville are the opposition for Houston Friday night at PNC Stadium. The Dash are coming off a 2-1 comeback win over OL Reign on Sunday. Racing Louisville drew with Washington Spirit 1-1 last Friday. Houston and Louisville have met three times in 2022, with Houston winning twice and picking up a draw.

Rach’s farewell

In Sunday’s preview I wrote about Rachel Daly’s return. Little did we know at the time, there would be no return for Houston’s English striker. Daly is returning to her home country to join Aston Villa, leaving the Dash after 7 seasons. The former captain will be in attendance for Friday’s match to say goodbye, and will celebrated at half time. “She’s been such a big piece of the Dash for seven years,” Nichelle Prince said this week. “When I first came to the team, as a rookie, she was someone who, as another forward took me in and taught me a lot. I learned a lot from her. If you’ve seen her play, you know that she’s like a feisty, passionate person on the field. She demands the best from her teammates and herself. As a captain, she’s been a great leader for us. It’s going to be very weird not having her around anymore. I’ve spent my whole career here with her. That’s going to be different. I think that she was ready for something different. So, I wish her all the best and in Aston Villa.”

Ebony’s fine form

With Daly now gone, the number 9 role is unquestionably Ebony Salmon’s position. Salmon has taken the league by storm while Daly was on international duty, winning July Player of the Month. Her two goals Sunday in Seattle have given her six in her last three games. Salmon now gets a chance to show her old team, Louisville, that they were wrong on giving up on her. “It is a big game for me,” Salmon said when asked about playing Racing. “It is a chance for me to prove people wrong and I think I have been doing that since I got traded. It’s just another game and three points we need to get into the playoffs. It doesn’t matter who the game is against - I have got to try and do my best to score goals and do everything for the team.”

Playoffs? Playoffs?

The Houston Dash have never made the playoffs in the NWSL. That point has been well documented over the years. But, as Daly said in her farewell letter on social media, “this is no longer the same old Dash.” Houston currently sits in third place, six points ahead of seventh place. A win tonight could put the Dash in second place and just a point behind Portland, who won Wednesday. So how is the team handling this new-found success? “It’s really cool to be in this position,” Prince said in the weekly press conference this week. “In previous years it’s always been conversation of ‘hey, guys, we got to make playoffs this year.’ We have never done it before. We’re in a good position right now. People are, it’s not just saying like, we can make playoffs but we’re saying hey, we can like actually win this league. We can actually do damage in the playoffs. It’s a different conversation than the one we’ve had in the past. It’s really cool to see that, players actually have that belief. It’s not just coming from the coaching staff. It’s truly everyone on this team believes that we can do something special this year. It first comes from that, from the players believing in ourselves. We still have a good chunk of games left and we just have to stay focused and get the job done.”

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), Allysha Chapman (concussion protocol)

Racing Louisville – Not available