On Saturday night, the Houston Dash will host the Chicago Red Stars in a match that both teams are desperate to win. Chicago and Houston have each earned just three points in their last five matches and are coming off of tough losses. The Houston Dash allowed five goals in their loss to the North Carolina Courage last weekend, and Chicago was beaten by the lowly Sky Blue FC. The Red Stars gave Sky Blue their first win of the season. Now, as they slip slowly down in the playoff race, both teams are in dire need of a win.
Houston is still lacking talent
The Houston Dash were widely expected to weather the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup with ease. Sofia Huerta and Kealia Ohai were top-notch players who just missed out on the United States Women's National Team, and much of the rest of the team was going to be remaining with the team. Instead, Houston has faltered desperately. Huerta has been bad to the point of getting benched, and Ohai has been virtually invisible for much of the last two months. Houston's prospects got even work last week when it was announced that Nichelle Prince would be out for the rest of the season after knee surgery.
The worst news for Houston is that forward Rachel Daly is suspended for the upcoming game. Daly earned a red card and a two-game suspension after elbowing a Utah Royals FC player in stoppage time, and she was awarded an extra game of suspension for the severity of the infraction. Without Daly and Prince, the Dash are stuck with the same lineup that they've been struggling with for the last six games. The defense was thoroughly embarrassed in their game against the Courage last weekend, so they will need to play better on that side of the ball if they want to have a chance at earning three points.
Chicago can't find a way to succeed
Like Houston, Chicago has been mired in a period of woeful soccer. The midfield, traditionally one of the strongest parts of the team, has been ineffective at controlling play. It's hard to point to any particular player in the midfield, because they are all strong individual players. Nonetheless, something hasn't been clicking for the team.
When Australian forward Sam Kerr returned to the team two weeks ago it felt like things were getting back on track. Kerr scored a hat trick in her first game back against the Orlando Pride, and Chicago won their first game after losing three in a row. Then, last weekend, things went back to the way they were before Kerr returned, and the Red Stars were beaten 2-1 by Sky Blue FC. Kerr was held without a goal, and to top it all off, forward Michele Vasconcelos went down with a season ending knee injury. Now, still lacking their USWNT players, Chicago goes on the road to face a similarly struggling Houston team.
There is no one aspect of the match where the teams are unequally matched. Chicago arguably has the more talented roster, but they have been playing so poorly in every phase of the game that the traditionally strong players can't be relied upon. If the Houston defense can hold Kerr in check they should have a good shot at winning this game, but that's a big 'if' after they allowed Courage forward Kristen Hamilton to score four goals in the game last weekend.
How to watch
The Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars will face off at 8:30 p.m. ET at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. For viewers in the United States the game will be broadcast on Yahoo! Sports, while international viewers will be able to watch on the NWSL website.