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Five things to know when OL Reign host Houston Dash

It’s the first time these clubs are meeting in 2022.

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

After a three-match road trip, OL Reign are back at home on Sunday, August 7. They host the Houston Dash at Lumen Field in a match that kicks off at 3 PM PT. The game will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.

Sunday’s match marks the first meeting between the two clubs in 2022 — and it is an important game for both sides. With seven games remaining after Sunday, OL Reign enter the match with a 5-3-6 record, and their 21 points put them in 4th place. The Houston Dash also have 21 points, with a 6-4-3 record — having played one fewer match than the Reign.

Houston Dash head coach Juan Carlos Amorós confirmed earlier this week that England forward Rachel Daly will miss the match, as she is rightfully still celebrating England’s EURO victory. For the Reign, head coach Laura Harvey shared that in addition to Angelina being out for the season due to an ACL tear suffered in Brazil’s Copa America final, Bethany Balcer is still a question and the team has gameday decisions to make on a few other players.

The match also marks Kim Little's final game with the club, as her loan spell expires.

Here are 5 things to know about OL Reign’s competition.

Houston just keeps scoring goals

The Dash have scored 24 goals in 13 matches, which puts them second in the league in goals per match. That’s not necessarily because they take a high number of shots. It’s just that they are converting at an enormous, league-leading rate. Houston also is coming off its second consecutive game in which the team has scored four goals.

To go even further on their goal conversion numbers, the Dash are eighth in the league in expected goals (xG) per match, a stat that measures the quality of chances a team is creating in a game — and the predicted number of goals they should score based on those chances. They are averaging 1.16 xG per match while scoring 1.69 goals a game. The Reign have the opposite problem, as they average 1.6 xG while only scoring 1.07 goals a game.

On the defensive end, the Dash also are outperforming their expected goals numbers — giving up 1.08 goals a game compared to an xG against of 1.34. Combined with their offensive conversion numbers, the Dash have the highest discrepancy between their actual goal differential versus their expected goal differential.

Three coaching changes for the Dash

The Dash are on their third coach of the season, which has made them a little unpredictable. They started the year with James Clarkson, who at the time was the longest-serving coach in the NWSL. He was suspended in late April due to a joint investigation by the NWSL and NWSL Players Association to “review current and historic complaints of discrimination, harassment and abuse.” The investigation started last year and is ongoing.

Assistant coach Sarah Lowdon was the interim head coach until Juan Carlos Amorós took over in late July. He still has the interim title, as Clarkson hasn’t been officially let go until the investigation concludes, but the players requested someone who could potentially become head coach next year. He comes to the Dash with experience coaching Tottenham Hotspur and most recently Real Betis in Spain, and in just two matches he’s made some tactical adjustments to the squad.

“I think the last two games with the new coach, there’s been a real shift in how they’ve approached, especially how they defend,” Harvey said in a pre-match press conference.

Opposite possession approaches

Houston is last in the league in average possession (45%), while OL Reign are in the middle — averaging 51% possession. The Dash like to strike on the counter, and they have the players like winger Nichelle Prince and striker Ebony Salmon to do that.

“I think with Houston, you always know that there’s fundamentals that they always are good at. They’re very good in transition. They’ve got a lot of pace across the front line and they’ve got quality across different lines,” Harvey said.

Conversely, OL Reign is a team that creates chances by moving the ball around and finding space. Sunday will be a battle to see who can execute their different game plans better.

More rest for the visitors

OL Reign played in LA last Saturday, in Louisville on Tuesday, and now are back in Seattle for their third match of the week. The Dash, meanwhile, hasn’t played for a week.

“Obviously, off what’s been a tough week for us with three games in such a short space of time and with the travel, I think it’s an opportunity for us to dig in and go and show how resilient we are and go and put on a performance at home after two tough away games,” Harvey said.

The Dash are good on the road

Most teams playing pro soccer in the U.S. struggle on the road, given the high amount of travel required to get across the country. Houston, however, has a better road record than home one. They are 4-1-2 in road matches. On the flip side, the Reign are very good at home. They haven’t lost yet at Lumen Field, going 4-0-3 this regular season.

Injury / Availability Report

OL Reign

OUT: Angelina (SEI - ACL), Bethany Balcer (illness)

Houston Dash

OUT: Rachel Daly (excused absence), Makamae Gomera-Stevens (SEI- left knee), Kelcie Hedge (SEI- right knee), Annika Schmidt (SEI- right knee)

How to Watch

OL Reign kicks off against the Houston Dash at 3 PM PT. The home match will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.

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