The Red Stars look to hop back into the NWSL playoff spots as they take on the Houston Dash. Both teams will be without key players who are headed to Tokyo for the Olympics, but it still is an important game.
SECOND CITY SOCCER: For someone who is not familiar with the Dash, can you describe the tactics and style of play we’ll see from James Clarkson’s team?
TLH: The Dash usually like to press high with a front three and disrupt their opponents rhythm, capitalizing on errors and turnovers. With changes to the starting XI expected in Chicago, you may see a more subdued and reactive defensive approach.
SECOND CITY SOCCER: How has the season gone for the Dash so far? They are in the playoff spots and have been competitive in nearly every match they’ve played, but I’m wondering if they’ve exceeded, fell short of, or have just met expectations in your eyes.
TLH: I think expectations are high and for that reason the otherwise solid start to 2021 has perhaps fallen short of pre-season hopes. Despite plenty of effort, the Dash have struggled to put a perfect 90 minutes together. Brilliant in periods, they still feel like they’re moving through the gears. In reality, a top three or four finish is still the goal.
SECOND CITY SOCCER: Who are the Dash losing to the Olympics and will those missing players cause any change in style of play or tactics?
TLH: Six players more than any other NWSL team. Their most integral midfield link, Kristie Mewis, their top goal scorer in club history, Rachel Daly, their most skillful wide option, Nichelle Prince, dogged starting left back, Allysha Chapman, anchor in front of the defense, Sophie Schmidt, and finally their number one keeper, Jane Campbell.
The Dash will look like almost a completely different team. You can’t expect them to attack in numbers the way they like to do, or chase the game early with fervor.
SECOND CITY SOCCER: The Dash and Red Stars have already played twice this season with the Dash winning the last match between the two sides. Obviously, the Red Stars will be missing some key players to injury and the Olympics, but I’m wondering what you are looking out for from a Dash perspective when it comes to the Red Stars?
TLH: Kealia Watt is a legend in Houston. The fans love her, a lot of her old teammates admire her. Every time these two teams play, she’s always on the minds of the Dash. Mal Pugh looked really on top of her game last time these two teams met, so trying to box her out a bit more will also be fresh on the defense’s mind.
SECOND CITY SOCCER: Match prediction…
TLH: Chicago Red Stars 0-1 Houston Dash