The Houston Dash are on the road tonight to take on the Chicago Red Stars in a match that has huge playoff implications for both teams. Houston and Chicago could not be any closer in the standings, they’re tied in everything. Both teams have won eight, drawn six, lost five, scored 32 goals, and conceded 24 goals. The Dash beat the Red Stars in July at PNC Stadium, 4-1 behind Ebony Salmon’s hat-trick. The Red Stars won both matches against the Dash in this year’s NWSL Challenge Cup.
Chicago’s Mal Pugh is a leading candidate for the league MVP award this season. The USWNT star scored twice in Chicago’s midweek win and now has ten goals this season. Pugh has played at an elite level all season but she has had some especially big games against Houston. Pugh scored twice in both games against the Dash in the Challenge Cup, and she will be relishing the chance to take on Houston again. She missed the match in July because of national team duty. Katie Naughton and Ally Prisock will have to keep very close tabs on Pugh tonight or she could single-handedly ruin this match as well.
Standings so close
The top six teams make the playoffs in the NWSL and as we approach the final stretch of the regular season, things could not be tighter. Just four points seperate first through sixth in the table and two teams are lurking just below the playoff line. Will the Dash make it to the postseason for the first time? We wrote about that yesterday. The Dash know they need points and midfielder Marisa Viggiano spoke this week about the competitiveness of the league. “Whenever we step out on the field, the goal is three points,” Viggiano said. “We know that that’s something that we can achieve. Has it been been a bummer, these past couple games? Yeah, a little bit. Just because we know that we’ve created enough to put the game away. It’s not anything that we need to dwell on. We’re creating and it’s going to come so we just have to keep pushing forward.”
For the city
Dynamo 2 have made the playoffs this year, while the Dynamo have struggled to stay out of last place. Insert the Dash, a team that has delighted Houston soccer fans all season long. So, where does the journey end? It hopefully ends in the team’s first playoff appearance. The players and the coaching staff knows what making the playoffs will mean, not just for the organization but for all of Houston. “The players to be fair credit to them they been fantastic from day one till now,” interim head coach Juan Carlos Amorós said in his weekly press conference. “The attitude, the effort, the commitment has been fantastic and has been added with some very good performances. We’ve added points to the board in seven out of the eight games. Obviously some of the draws were a bit disappointing because we’re ambitious and we want to win. Even the game that we lost, it was a game that we could have probably got a point. The team really believes in the way we do things how we do it, they know their roles, their responsibilities and they know that big responsibility that we have not only for the club but for the city of Houston. That’s going to be very important and something that the players have completely embraced and are really looking forward to make sure that everyone is proud of them with their performance.”
Houston Dash – Out: Annika Schmidt (right knee – season-ending injury), Kelcie Hedge (right knee – season-ending injury), Makamae Gomera-Stevens (left knee – season-ending injury), Cali Farquharson (right leg)
Chicago Red Stars – No report