Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (6-5-6, 24 points) welcome the Houston Dash (6-6-3, 21 points) to Exploria Stadium. This will be the second and final meeting between the two teams in the 2021 NWSL season.
The Pride and Dash have met 13 times in NWSL regular-season games. The Pride are 5-7-1 in those games, going 3-3-0 at home.
The most recent meeting between the teams came on June 26 in Houston. The Dash were dominant in the first half, with goals by Maria Sanchez in the 18th minute and Veronica Latsko in the 26th minute. Gunny Jonsdottir got the Pride back into the game with a 49th-minute strike, but that was the end of the scoring as the Pride fell 2-1 for their first loss of the 2021 NWSL regular season.
The 2020 NWSL season was cancelled due to the global pandemic and the Pride withdrew from the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. However, the Pride and Dash were matched up for two games in the Fall Series. On Sept. 26, 2020 in Houston, Nichelle Prince gave the Dash the 27th-minute lead. Marisa Viggiano responded in first-half injury time, sending the game into the break at 1-1. The hosts took over in the second half with goals by Sophie Schmidt and Shea Groom, resulting in a 3-1 win for the Dash.
On Oct. 9, 2020, the Pride hosted the Dash in the team’s only game ever played at Osceola County Stadium. Groom gave the Dash an early lead in the 13th minute before Latsko doubled the advantage in the 29th minute. Sydney Leroux pulled one back in the 47th minute but it wasn’t enough as the Dash won 2-1.
The Pride went winless in three matches against Houston in 2019 (0-2-1). Each match against the Dash was decided by no more than a goal. The first meeting of 2019 occurred on May 5. With the U.S. internationals away, Orlando failed to send a single shot on target, and Kealia Ohai’s seventh-minute goal won the game for the home side, 1-0. The clubs drew in the second meeting that ended 2-2 back on June 15, 2019. Joanna Boyles got her first professional goal off a free kick on the edge of the 18, and the Pride went up 1-0 early. Orlando took that lead into halftime, but the Dash stormed back and scored two unanswered goals. Minutes later, Danica Evans scored the game-tying goal, and it finished 2-2.
On Aug. 10, 2019, Marta and Julie King were both issued red cards. It was King’s first appearance for the Pride, but she only lasted an hour after fouling Kristie Mewis and earning a straight red. Kristen Edmonds tripped Ohai in the box in the 85th minute. This led to a scuffle, and Marta was issued a straight red. Sofia Huerta converted the spot kick, and then Houston played defensively for the last five minutes and stoppage time to win the match, 1-0.
Orlando won the first game in 2018 1-0 at home off of Chioma Ubogagu’s 65th-minute goal. Since that match, Houston has dominated the series. In the six games since that Ugogagu game winner, the Dash have not lost to Orlando (0-5-1). Houston has also outscored the Pride 12-5 in that time. The Pride lost 2-1 at home on June 27, 2018. Alex Morgan missed a penalty but later put Orlando ahead 1-0. Unfortunately, the Dash rallied on late goals by Ohai and Huerta. The Dash won the third meeting 3-1 in Houston July 11, 2018. Rachel Daly put Houston up 2-0 with a brace before Sydney Leroux pulled one back. Thembi Kgatlana scored late in stoppage time for the final margin.
Both teams won the away fixture in 2017. The Pride struck first, winning 4-2 in Houston on June 17, 2017. Marta scored twice, with Camila and Alanna Kennedy adding strikes to put the Pride up 4-0. Houston pulled two goals back late through Poliana and Prince. A week later, the Dash got their revenge in Orlando, winning 2-0 on goals by Carli Lloyd and Daly.
The Pride and Dash have played every year since the Pride joined the NWSL in 2016. That inaugural season, the Pride played every team twice except for Houston, who they were matched up with four times.
The Pride won each of the first three matches against the Dash in 2016 — the only year Orlando had a winning record against Houston. Morgan and Lianne Sanderson both scored in the first-ever meeting — Orlando’s first home match since joining the NWSL — plus Andressa scored an own goal. This led to a 3-1 Pride win as Orlando broke the league’s attendance record at the time, with 23,403 fans in attendance.
Orlando followed that win up with back-to-back 1-0 wins. Edmonds got the game-winner on May 20, 2016, and Jasmyne Spencer netted the lone goal on June 23, 2016. The Dash stormed back in the last meeting of the season though and beat Orlando, 4-2. The game seemed over heading into the final 10 minutes of the match with the Pride down, 3-0. However, Edmonds set up Morgan for a goal and then scored herself to bring the Pride within one goal. Orlando could not find a third, though, and Ohai got her brace in the 94th minute.
After a difficult stretch of one point in five games, the Pride have been much better under interim head coach Becky Burleigh. The first loss under Burleigh came in a 2-1 loss to the Washington Spirit on Aug. 22, but the team responded well, defeating Gotham FC 1-0 last Sunday. The win lifted the Pride from sixth up to fourth in the NWSL, a point above the sixth-place Spirit for the final playoff spot.
The Dash are coming off a short week. After defeating Racing Louisville last weekend, the team hosted OL Reign Wednesday night, losing 1-0. The Dash currently sit in eighth in the 10-team league. However, they’re only three points behind the Pride for fourth.
The Dash are led offensively by Latsko — who scored against the Pride in the last meeting — and defender-turned-forward Rachel Daly, with three goals each. The defense looks slightly different than the last meeting as the Dash added U.S. international center back Abby Dahlkemper after a trade with the North Carolina Courage.
“When you look at Houston on paper, they’re an absolutely loaded team,” Burleigh said about tonight’s opponent. “Overall there are not a lot of weaknesses in their roster so we’re going to have to put our imprint on the game right from the start. We’ll need to keep an eye on the dangers that they possess in the offensive end and they also got a boost recently on the defensive side with the addition of Abby Dahlkemper. But we’re coming off a big win last week, and at this point in the season every point is valuable, so we’re really excited to get back in front of our fans on Sunday.”
Who will play for the Dash this weekend is still up for debate. The Texas-based team is playing its third game in a week — a tall task for a team looking to climb up the standings. The Pride will be the fresher team in this one, having a full week between games.
Amy Turner (right leg) returns this week from injury, which will likely see her partner with Ali Krieger at center back. However, Courtney Petersen (right foot) remains out so the back four is still missing a key piece.
While Morgan is back with the team, she’s still out with a left calf injury and will miss this game. That means that the front three of Marta, Leroux, and Jodie Taylor will remain the same.
In addition to Petersen and Morgan, the Pride will be without Carrie Lawrence (right ankle), Jade Moore (left knee), and Viviana Villacorta (SEI). Meanwhile, Crystal Thomas will return to the bench after missing the Gotham FC game last week with an excused absence.
The Dash will be missing two players for this game. Deneisha Blackwood (left knee) and Emily Ogle (right knee) are out with season-ending injuries. However, the remainder of their roster will be available for selection.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Ali Riley, Amy Turner, Ali Krieger, Phoebe McClernon.
Midfielders: Meggie Dougherty Howard, Marta, Gunny Jonsdottir.
Forwards: Sydney Leroux, Jodie Taylor, Erika Tymrak.
Bench: Erin McLeod, Ally Haran, Kylie Strom, Toni Pressley, Taylor Kornieck, Parker Roberts, Chelsee Washington, Marisa Viggiano, Crystal Thomas.
Houston Dash (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Jane Campbell.
Defenders: Allysha Chapman, Katie Naughton, Abby Dahlkemper, Haley Hanson.
Midfielders: Kristie Mewis, Gabby Seiler, Shea Groom.
Forwards: Jasmyne Spencer, Rachel Daly, Nichelle Prince.
Bench: Lindsey Harris, Makamae Gomera-Stevens, Megan Oyster, Bri Visalli, Michaela Abam, Veronica Latsko, Sophie Schmidt.
REF: Ekaterina Koroleva.
AR1: Tom Felice.
AR2: Ashlee Varnson.
4TH: Sarieni Vasquez.
How to Watch
Match Time: 4 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: Twitch (International).
Twitter: For live updates, follow along at the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride) and on The Mane Land’s Twitter (@TheManeLand).
Enjoy the Match. Go Pride!
Note: Former Mane Land staff writer Scott Carnevale contributed to the history section of this article.