Tom Sermanni's Orlando Pride will be hosting the Houston Dash on Sunday for their first official home match at the Citrus Bowl, where a league record crowd is expected for this highly anticipated debut of the NWSL in the City Beautiful.
Here is our scouting report on the Pride's opponents for their second ever game and first on home turf.
Tactics and Formation
The Houston Dash started their fixture against Chicago Red Stars in a 4-1-2-3 formation, which often transformed itself into a 4-1-1-4, with Lloyd making her trademark deep runs. One cannot judge a team after just one fixture, but having most of the players return from last season and also adding some important talents like Caity Heap -- who had a terrific season with the Texas Tech in college -- makes Houston one of the favorites to win the championship.
The Dash's attacking force is their most potent weapon. In their first couple of NWSL seasons, they struggled a lot to score goals, thus the coaching staff decided to reconstruct their attack. They brought in English striker Rachel Daly and Canadian forward Janine Beckie and there was an immediate spark between them as they created havoc up front. The Pride's defense, which had not been together very long, lacked focus at times against the Thorns last week, and cannot allow Houston's striking partnership to create havoc or it could be a long night for Orlando.
- Carli Lloyd - Lloyd does not need any type of introduction. She has recently led the USWNT to the World Cup last summer in Canada, where she was named as the tournament's most outstanding player and also authored a stupendous goal in the final against defending World Cup champion Japan. Lloyd has also made a name for herself during the FIFA Awards last January, when she was named Women's Player of the Year and deservedly so.
However, this weekend we won't be cheering for her. Actually, we will be hoping that Orlando's midfield and back line cope with her wisely to prevent her from impacting the game. Lloyd, who also captains the Dash, started the match alongside Brazilian international Andressa in a 4-1-2-3 formation, with both players forming the duo behind the trio of attackers.
It was a wise decision by Randy Waldrum, as they barely gave any chances to Chicago to reply, albeit they conceded once in the second half. Lloyd's attacking movements were instrumental in Houston's success in the opener, where the U.S. captain also netted the second goal with a clever header. Lloyd's connection with Andressa is pivotal for the Dash as they manage to keep an equilibrium between their back line and attacking line, especially in transitions. The Pride should be cautious about her deep runs in which she is an expert, as she constantly shows with club and country.
- Andressa Cavalari Machry - Still just 20 years old but already boasting more than 20 international appearances for Brazil, which is considered an elite nation when it comes to women's soccer -- just like their counterparts in men's football. Andressa Cavalari Machry is a huge talent for the Dash, who waived Carleigh Williams to bring in the South American talent.
She was exceptional in her first appearances last season with the Dash and she resumed from where she had left off on Saturday, putting on a lovely display for her team. Andressa has already learned a lot from playing alongside a World Cup winner like Lloyd. Her movements, diagonal runs, vertical balls, and change of direction make her capable of holding the midfield. The Pride had better keep an eye on her as well.
- Rachel Daly - Prior to coming to the U.S., Daly played in England where, among her experiences, she was a key figure at Lincoln Ladies, gaining experience from notable international players such as defender Sophie Bradley. She also played with Bradley at Leeds United. Daly has recently also managed to earn her first call-up under England coach Mark Sampson for her country's training camp at La Manga back in 2014.
Acquired by the Dash in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, Rachel Daly was exceptional in her first outing against Chicago Red Stars. Daly, like Canadian striker Janine Beckie, was brought in during via the draft. The duo have formed a tandem which created havoc with Chicago's back line last weekend, particularly when assisted by Kealia Ohai, who had a brilliant performance. Daly also managed to be named NWSL Player of the Week, as she grabbed a goal and also assisted on Carli Lloyd's tally. Lloyd was particularly impressed by Daly's knowledge of the game as she said that it was notable how she could understand the team's movements in such a short time.
If you're not going to the Citrus Bowl to be part of history, you can catch all the action tonight on YouTube, or you can just watch the match here: