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Match Preview: OL Reign v. Houston Dash

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The Reign are looking for redemption after a disappointing home loss.

Nikita Taparia

After a disappointing home loss to Gotham, OL Reign head on the road for a match against the Houston Dash. The Dash just gave the Orlando Pride their first loss of the season, winning 2-1. The game kicks off at 5:30 PM PT Friday and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.

OL Reign (2-4-1) hasn’t faced the Houston Dash (3-3-1) yet this regular season. The two teams met in the opening match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, playing to a scoreless draw. Since then, OL Reign has gone through a lot of roster changes — starting 25 different players already in their first seven matches of the year.

The depth of both sides will be tested, as both Houston and the Reign will be without their Canadian and U.S. players who were named to their country’s Olympic roster (Rachel Daly reported to camp with Team GB already as well). Jane Campbell and Sophie Schmidt will be available for the Dash, however, as they were selected as alternates for their respective countries and did not get called early into camp.

On paper, the Reign and Dash have similar stats. Both teams have given up 8 goals in 7 games. Both average 50% possession. The Dash average 415 passes to the Reign’s 425 and have taken 84 shots to the Reign’s 87. There is one area where Houston outranks the Reign: goals scored. The Dash have scored 8 goals to the Reign’s 5.

The Reign will be hungry for redemption and goals on Friday against Houston. Here are three things you should know about the Houston Dash squad they’ll be facing.

Strong in the air

Houston is a side that applies pressure at the right moment and looks for quick transitions to their frontline. That counter-attacking punch often starts on the wings. While they aren’t a team that’s over-reliant on crosses, the Dash average about 17 per game compared to just under 14 for OL Reign.

The Reign have gone up against teams that like to cross, but they haven’t defended a team like the Dash who do well to connect on balls in the air. Houston wins 56% of their aerial duels compared to just 48% for the Reign, and 5 of the Dash’s 8 goals came from headers.

Those opportunities have come from balls over the top ...

On corner kicks ...

And on crosses across the box ...

Whichever players start along the Reign backline will need to mark tightly in the box — especially on set pieces — and track runners. And communication with new goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi will be critical.

Kristie Mewis will be missed

Kristie Mewis was named to the 18-player Olympic squad for the USWNT, which was incredibly well deserved. She’s got a vicious left foot and is Houston’s creative playmaker. Mewis has already notched a goal and two assists for the Dash, and her creativity will be hard to replicate in the midfield.

Now, nobody should count out Shea Groom, who is not afraid to bulldoze through anyone to get the ball, is a playmaker herself, and is good in the air. But she’ll be asked to do a lot more without Mewis in the midfield. She’s definitely up for the challenge. So is Sophie Schmidt, who has been having a great year in the midfield for Houston. She’s already got two assists as well.

The battle will likely play out in the midfield this match. Whichever team can be a greater disruptor in the middle of the field should be able to control the tempo of the game. And tempo is going to be important, as it is supposed to be 86 degrees at kickoff with about 69% humidity expected. That means it might feel more like 96.

Who starts at left back?

The Dash have had a fairly consistent backline, with Haley Hanson starting at right back and sitting deeper defensively, Megan Oyster and Katie Naughton holding the line in the center, and Canadian Allysha Chapman starting at left back. Chapman often pushes high into the attack and almost always leads the team in touches.

Without Chapman on the field — as she’s with Canada preparing for the Olympics — the Dash will have to adjust their backline. That task has most recently fallen on Ally Prisock, who is typically a centerback. Whoever starts there for Houston will likely sit deeper than Chapman, which will help slow down Houston’s attack.

It might be smart for the Reign to attack down that flank as well, to test the defender that steps in — especially if Sofia Huerta starts again, after her best performance in a Reign jersey last week against Chicago.

Injury Report / International Absences

OL Reign

OUT: Ally Watt (right knee), Rosie White (illness)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Nicole Momiki (JPN), Rose Lavelle (USA), Megan Rapinoe (USA), Quinn (CAN)

Houston Dash

OUT: None

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Kristie Mewis (USA), Allysha Chapman (CAN), Nichelle Prince (CAN), Rachel Daly (ENG)

How to Watch

The match kicks off Friday, July 2, at 5:30 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.