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Match Preview: OL Reign host the Houston Dash

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The Reign will be looking to keep their win and shutout streak alive.

Houston Dash v OL Reign Photo by Jane Gershovich/ISI Photos/Getty Images

OL Reign will look to continue their momentum on Saturday when they face the Houston Dash at home. The match kicks off Saturday, August 7, at 7 PM PT at Cheney Stadium and will be broadcast exclusively on Twitch (@nwslofficial).

OL Reign are officially at the halfway mark for their season. After back-to-back wins and clean sheets, the team is gaining more confidence that they hope will carry them up the table in the second half of the season.

The battle against Houston is an important one for a few more reasons. After a disappointing 2-0 loss on the road in early July — when they created but couldn’t finish plenty of chances — the Reign will be looking for some redemption in front of their home fans.

The two teams also sit close to each other on the NWSL table — a win would give the Reign a chance to leap over Houston and a few other teams. OL Reign enter the match with a 5-6-1 record (16 points, eighth place), while the Dash are 5-5-2 (17 points, sixth place). In fact, the table is so tight right now that just four points separate the Reign from second place.

Here are three things to watch in Saturday’s match.

Confident defending

While OL Reign dominated their opening half against Racing Louisville last week — with two fantastic goals from Eugenie Le Sommer — they really showed their growth in the second half. Louisville kicked it into another gear and were threatening the Reign all half, but the team didn’t break. They never looked rattled or frantic — confidently defending and holding onto the win and the clean sheet.

The team didn’t act the same on the road against Houston in early July. After giving up the first goal on a brilliant run from Jasmyne Spencer, they lost their confidence. Soccer is a game with subtle shifts in momentum throughout a match — it’s rare for a team to dominate all 90 minutes.

Houston might be one of the best teams in the league in pouncing on those moments of shift. They often hold back and pick their moments to pounce and quickly transition up the field. And their forwards are good at finding space between defenders.

The Reign have shown a more resilient mindset in recent weeks. Can they keep that up against Houston?

Win the second ball

We shared ahead of the last match against Houston that this was a team that was good in the air. And then in that July match, the second goal OL Reign gave up was a header that came when the Reign couldn’t win the second ball on a set piece.

That was Houston’s sixth header goal of the year. They have 14 total goals.

While OL Reign has been strong in the air in the box, what they’ll have to clean up is their ability to win that second ball — the one that bounces off a player and becomes a 50/50 ball for anyone to win.

Ride the momentum

A number of OL Reign attackers have been feeling it lately. Bethany Balcer had 3 goals in July. Tziarra King had a goal and assist against Orlando. Eugenie Le Sommer just scored two goals in the Reign’s last match.

This is a team that has danger in every spot on the field. And while you always have to prepare for the opponent on hand, the most important thing for the Reign right now is to build on what’s working.

If the team can continue to finish their chances early on Saturday, they should have no problem getting three points at home. And what better way to welcome back Olympic Gold Medalist Quinn and Bronze Medalists Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle in the next few weeks, along with first-time Olympian Angelina, who is available for this weekend’s match.

Injury Report / International Absences

OL Reign

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

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

Houston Dash

OUT: None

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

How to Watch

The match kicks off Saturday, August 7, at 7 PM PT and will stream exclusively on Twitch (search for the nwslofficial account) for fans in the U.S. and internationally.