Dash vs. Orlando, September 26, 2020. Photo by Gia Quilap.
by Grant Wiedenfeld
The Houston Dash host one more NWSL Fall Series game tomorrow at BBVA Stadium — the last home game for the Challenge Cup champions this year. Here are a few more Dash updates heading into this match, along with notes from the previous Dash update:
North Carolina head coach Paul Riley has been experimenting with a three-back formation this fall, which the Courage debuted in the match against the Dash on September 12. “I think it caught [us] a little bit of off guard … but I thought players adapted really well and adjusted to the situation,” said Dash head coach James Clarkson. “I think that’s where we’ve made progress this year. The players are much more adaptable and better at solving problems. When situations arise on the field, it’s not panic or worries, we just adjust and change our shape a little bit. I think it shows the maturity of the team.” The Courage also changed the shape of their midfield against Orlando, so the Dash will have to be ready to face several possible looks this Sunday.
After Houston defeated Orlando 3–1 at home, last week, Pride goalkkeeper Ashlyn Harris criticized the Dash
since the club had one player test positive for COVID-19. That result led to two Pride players, Sydney Leroux and Kristen Edmonds, opting not to travel to Houston. Clarkson responded by saying, “I think it was deflecting from the game. Unfortunately, we’ve had a positive COVID-19 test, but the two things were not related. Our players have behaved and done everything very well over this testing period from March all the way through now. Our players are fully committed to making sure everybody is safe and everything is done correctly.” According to Clarkson, all subsequent tests have been negative and the full Dash roster is cleared to play Sunday.
“Megan Oyster is making a lot of good progress, so we may see her,” Clarkson shared. The veteran center back suffered a rib injury in the Challenge Cup quarterfinal and has yet to see the field in the Fall Series. Ally Prisock started both games at central defense in Oyster’s place and continues to improve in her second year. Strong performances by Prisock and other players have created a good problem for Clarkson. “I actually thought, when we would go through this process, that it would be pretty easy to pick the team every week, but credit to the players. They’ve been at training every single day with their intensity; their work rate and competitive spirit has been outstanding. It has made picking eleven players very difficult.” With the exception of Rachel Daly and CeCce Kizer being on loan to European clubs, the entire Dash roster opted in for the NWSL Fall Series.
Canadian defender Allysha Chapman is availble for Sunday’s game after missing theOrlando match due to red-card suspension. Clarkson has called Chapman “the best 1v1 defender in the league” and she was part of the defense that set a club record of 344 minutes without allowing a goal during this summer’s Challenge Cup.
In September, the Dash signed three players to short-term contracts for the fall, replacing players currently injured and on loan: defender Lauren Silver (who plays with Kayla McCoy on the Jamaican national team), midfielder Jaci Jones, and forward Shaina Ashouri. Clarkson said that the new additions “have fitted in well,” despite disruptions in training schedules making it difficult to develop a normal “rhythm” with the team.
Limited tickets are available for Sunday’s match at BBVA Stadium. A maximum of 3,000 fans will be dispersed around the upper deck of the 22,000-seat stadium. All fans must wear masks and enter through specific gates at assigned times, with a temperature check upon entry; concessions will also be delivered to fans seats to minimize contact. Review all stadium protocols here.
Fans can watch the Twitch broadcast of the Houston-Orlando game for free, both in the USA and internationally beginning at 6 pm CT. The Phoenix on Westheimer will show the game on at least one screen — masks required and social distancing rules are in effect.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the #CityOfSoccer Dash/Dynamo podcast. This week’s Dash guest is Christine Nairn, who stepped into the role of outside back last game due to Chapman’s absence.
Final game of the NWSL Fall Series for the Houston Dash will be Friday, October 9 at Orlando. Match kicks off at 4 pm CT on CBS Sports Network and CBS All-Access — join Keeper Notes to watch the game on the big screen at Phoenix on Westheimer!