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Reign Report: Win and they’re in

With a win, Seattle can book a spot in the 2018 playoffs.

Reign vs. Dash MikeRussellFoto

What You’ll Watch

Seattle Reign FC will head into game 22 of 24 looking to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in two years. The Houston Dash will look to delay things. This will be their third and final meeting of the season. The season series is 1-1 with Reign FC scoring four goals and the Dash scoring three.

Reign FC currently sit in second place in the standings with a record of 10-4-7 (37 points in 21 games played; 1.76 ppg) while Houston sit in seventh place with a record of 8-8-5 (29 points in 21 games played; 1.38 ppg). Last time out, Reign FC battled to a 0-0 draw against the Chicago Red Stars and Houston won 4-0 over the Washington Spirit.

As mentioned above, Reign FC can wrap up a playoff spot with a win and two games to go. Houston still is mathematically in the hunt for the playoffs but would need a lot of help.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: L-W-L-W-W with nine goals scored and six conceded

Leading Goal Scorer: Rachel Daly, nine goals

Assist Leader: Sofia Huerta, five assists

Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty

Houston

OUT: Bianca Henninger (left hand fracture), Kristie Mewis (left ACL sprain — SEI), Meleana Shim (left ankle sprain)

QUESTIONABLE: Claire Polkinghorne (left ankle sprain)

Seattle

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness — SEI), Kiersten Dallstream (right knee sprain — SEI), Allie Long (right knee sprain), Beverly Yanez (right foot fracture)

QUESTIONABLE: Megan Rapinoe (left hip strain), Rumi Utsugi (left calf strain)

Match Officials

REFEREE: Katja Koroleva

AR1: Shane Kennard

AR2: Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein

4TH: Levi Rippy

What to Watch

The Houston Dash started the season with low expectations. A trade for Christen Press went awry, while other trades that sent some of Houston’s best players to the competition left fans frustrated. With Vera Pauw, a new coach unproven in the league taking over and a history of poor performances, many were skeptical of Houston’s chances. Fast forward to Week 22 (out of 24), and Houston is still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

What’s their secret? Bunker defense combined with a killer counter attack.

The Dash currently line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Rachel Daly serving as the lone striker. The England international is having a breakout season, carrying much of Houston’s offensive load. She has nine goals and two assists, but she’s not the only offensive threat.

Houston’s wing players — typically Kealia Ohai and either Kyah Simon, Nichelle Prince, or Veronica Latsko — stretch defenses with their pace on and off the ball. Ohai, who lines up on the left, is a fringe national team player who is dangerous on the dribble and seems even faster with the ball at her feet. Luckily, Seattle is facing Houston at Memorial Stadium — a narrow field that makes it hard for players like Ohai to create too much space out wide.

Houston struggled earlier in the season to build play through the midfield. However, the mid-season addition of Sofia Huerta from Chicago has made their attack more dynamic. They are now switching play more frequently, and Huerta’s runs up the middle are putting more numbers into the box. Just look at what they did to the poor Washington Spirit backline last weekend. All four goals came from players streaking into the box.

Houston is comfortable sitting back deep and defending, letting teams dominate possession. Aside from Daly, none of Houston’s attackers press very high up the field when defending. Instead, they drop back to put more bodies behind the ball. The Dash are at the bottom of the league in possession, passes, and pass accuracy, and second to last in cross accuracy. This is how they trick teams. Houston will let you feel like you have total control of the match by slowing the game down, and then they will pounce out of nowhere.

Defensively, however, the Dash are prone to giving up goals. Their 31 goals against put them sixth out of nine teams. The last time Seattle and Houston faced off — in early July — Seattle punished them with fast restarts, quick passing around the box, and great movement in the midfield. I suspect this well-coached side will make adjustments for the restarts, but there is still plenty of space between Houston’s midfield and backline to exploit.

Quick Keys

  • Defend Houston’s transition play — Don’t let Houston counter, which also means no bad giveaways that could spark a quick Dash attack.
  • Build play through the midfield — Houston doesn’t allow too much of the attack come down the wings, but they are susceptible in the middle of the field. Find those gaps and stretch their defense.
  • Move the ball quickly, especially in the offensive third — Move the ball around quickly, especially around the 18. This is bound to create some space out wide or lanes into the box.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Tuesday, August 21 @ 7:30 PM PT

Location: UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium — Seattle, Washington

Streaming: nwslsoccer.com