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Reign Report: Time to Dash Houston’s hopes once again

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It may be ‘80s night on Wednesday, but there is nothing they can do to turn back the clock.

Photo by MikeRussellFoto

What You’ll Watch

Seattle Reign FC hit the road for a mid-week match against the Houston Dash at BBVA Compass Stadium. This is the first meeting of the season between these two clubs.

Seattle is currently second in the league with a record of 4-1-2 (14 points in seven games played; 2.0 ppg) while the Dash sit in seventh place with a record of 1-4-4 (seven points in nine games played; 0.77 ppg). The last time out, Seattle battled to a 0-0 draw against the Chicago Red Stars while the Dash lost 1-0 to the Utah Royals.

This will be the 11th all-time meeting between the two clubs. Seattle is a perfect 10-0-0 against Houston, with 27 goals scored and six conceded. The last time they met, Seattle won 1-0 in a game that was played in Frisco, TX due to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Overall in 2017, Seattle went 3-0-0 against the Dash, scoring eight goals and conceding just one.

Some may be wondering how the Reign will rotate their starting XI with three games in eight days. We asked head coach Vlatko Andonovski about that after the game on Saturday. “Obviously we’re going to have to make some changes,” Andonovski shared. “We go to Houston on Wednesday and the forecast says 95 degrees if I’m not wrong, and we’re probably going to have to rest some players. We’re going to start thinking about it probably as soon as I walk out of here.”

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: L-W-T-L-L

Leading Scorer: Rachel Daly, two goals

Assist Leader: Seven players with one each

Injury Report

Houston

QUESTIONABLE: Linda Motlhalo (right knee sprain)

Seattle

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Jaycie Johnson (right knee sprain – D45), Megan Oyster (left knee sprain)

Match Officials

Referee: Daniel Gutierrez

AR 1: Walter Heatherly

AR 2: Kaili Terry

4th Official: Laura Rodriguez

What to Watch

Houston’s System

Under new head coach Vera Pauw, the Dash first prioritized defensive organization and shape at the start of the season — a smart strategy after a few years of defensive woes for the Texas side. Unfortunately for Houston, that early priority meant the team pulled some of its best players onto the backline, with Kristie Mewis and Rachel Daly filling in as outside backs. As a result, while the team was indeed more organized defensively, Houston scored just one goal in its first five matches.

Both players have recently moved higher into the attack — Mewis into a holding midfield position and Daly up top. It has resulted in a few more goals, with Daly scoring two in her last three matches, but also a slightly shakier defense. Still, all signs point to these two remaining in their more attack-minded spots on the field.

Houston lines up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Daly typically sitting at the top of the attack. Kealia Ohai is working her way back to full fitness after tearing her ACL last June. The speedy winger has lined up on the left side of the band of three in the attack, with Australian international Kyah Simon and Canadian international Nichelle Prince filling out the rest of the band — though we could certainly see some rotation due to the mid-week match.

These are among the more potent attackers in the league when they are firing on all cylinders. Simon is a creative and versatile mid/forward who partnered with many Reign FC players while playing for Melbourne City in Australia’s W-League this year, where Simon created the most chances among players in the league. Daly loves to pressure opposing defenses and slip through on counters, and Ohai tied for the most goals scored in the league in 2016 and was in great form last year before her knee injury.

The Dash recently put in two goals on Chicago — the same team that held Seattle scoreless on Saturday — one from a quick counter and the other from a well executed set piece play. Counters are where Houston is most dangerous, and Reign FC will have to avoid sloppy passes from deep in their half and getting caught too far out of position. This is a team that can punish both mistakes.

Defensively, Daly is really the only player to put any pressure on opponents higher up the field. All nine other field players drop off and let teams possess out of the back, trying to cut off passes into the midfield and force teams to break them down with possession. Against the Utah Royals last weekend, Houston had just 36.4% of possession. Still, while Utah managed 557 passes, the team only put 5 shots on goal and scored once. All the passing in the world means nothing if you can’t put your team in dangerous goal-scoring positions.

It is going to be a very warm match and Houston is likely going to put plenty of bodies in defense, but if Seattle plays its game, they should leave Texas with three points.

Quick Keys

  • Play smart out of the back: Avoid sloppy passes and keep shape defensively to prevent any Dash counter attacks.
  • Pressure, pressure, pressure: Especially out wide on the backline and in the midfield, this is a team that can be pressured into mistakes. Still, it’s going to be a hot and humid match, so Reign FC will have to conserve some energy, which leads us to ...
  • Score early: Turn those first-half chances into goals. Doing so will allow some defensive subs to come in and close out the match, rather than forcing the team to press for goals in difficult weather conditions.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Wednesday, May 23 @ 5:00 PM PT

Location: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas

Streaming: U.S. go90 (app/website), International: NWSL (app/website)