Reign FC has its first match of the season on the big stage on Friday, as the club travels to Houston to face the Dash in a game that will air on ESPNEWS. Tonight’s match kicks off at 4 PM PT and will also be available to stream on WatchESPN (U.S.) and the NWSL website (international).
The Reign and Dash have faced off twice this season, and both matches have resulted in a draw. The Reign were unable to close out their last match against Houston at home, giving up a last-minute goal to leave the game at 1-1. As the club continues to struggle to put away their chances, they’ll need to finish in front of goal today to finally get the better of Houston.
“This third match against Houston will be important for us,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said in the team’s match preview. “Twice now we’ve battled against them and haven’t quite been able to finish the job, so we’ve got to make sure we do everything right to try and win against a good team in a tough environment.”
It’s going to be a hot and humid affair in Houston. When the match kicks off at 6 PM local time (4 PM PT), it’s expected to be about 90 degrees with 55% humidity. Yuck.
Friday’s road battle is the first of three matches in a 10-day span for Reign FC. The next two matches are at home, including a mid-week clash against the Portland Thorns. Gaining some momentum heading into a busy week will be critical for the Reign.
What to Watch
Pulling the CBs out of position: Amber Brooks and Ally Prisock have formed a solid pair as Houston’s two starting central defenders, but they can get stretched, leaving space in the box to exploit. The Dash lost to the Portland Thorns 5-0 last week, and their defensive shape was one reason for the struggles.
Building from the back: The Dash have completed the second most passes in the league, which is a shift for a team that had established a counter-attacking style of play in recent years. They like to build out of the back and through their defensive midfielders. The Reign press could put them under some pressure, and hopefully result in a few goals in transition.
Set pieces: The Dash have found success scoring on corner kicks and set pieces, with Christine Nairn providing solid service and Brooks often getting on the end of the ball. Reign will need to win their duels and properly clear the ball on dangerous set plays.
Kristie Mewis: The center midfielder serves as a vital link between the backline and the attack. She’s been settling into the game in the past few months after recovering from an ACL tear last year. Mewis already has three goals this season and had a strong left-footed shot.
Rachel Daly: The striker plays on the edge of the offside line — she’s fourth in the league in offside calls — and is one of the best finishers when shooting off the dribble. She has four goals in just eight matches played.
Amber Brooks: The centerback is fourth in the league in passes. She’s a focal point for how the Dash try to maintain possession. She’s been solid — completing 80% of her passes and winning 80% of her duels — but she can be pressured into some mistakes.
Absences: Injury, international duty and suspension
OUT: Jasmyne Spencer (SEI - Knee), Taylor Smith (SEI - Knee), Michelle Betos (SEI - Right Achilles), Jaycie Johnson (SEI - Right Knee), Scout Watson (SEI - Concussion), Jessica Fishlock (SEI - Left Knee), Lydia Williams (45D - Left Ankle), Stephanie Cox (Right Calf), Rumi Utsugi (Left Calf)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Megan Rapinoe (USA), Allie Long (USA)
OUT: Veronica Latsko (Left Knee - SEI), Kayla McCoy (Left Knee -SEI), Nichelle Prince (Right Knee - SEI)
QUESTIONABLE: Allysha Chapman - (Left Ankle)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Arianna Romero (MEX)
By the Numbers
5-6-4, 16 points | 19 goals for, 25 against
Sofia Huerta: 3 goals, 2 assists | Rachel Daly: 4 goals | Kristie Mewis: 3 goals
Jane Campbell: 43 saves, 25 goals against, 4 clean sheets
5-3-5, 20 points | 12 goals for, 15 goals against
Bethany Balcer: 3 goals, 1 assist
Casey Murphy: 29 saves, 9 goals against, 3 clean sheets
Reign FC versus Houston Dash kicks off at 4:00 p.m. PT on Friday, August 2 at BBVA Stadium in Houston. The game will stream on ESPN and the NWSL website for international fans. We’ll have a separate gamethread to discuss the match.