The Dash recorded what was probably a surprise 2-0 victory over the visiting Red Stars on opening weekend. This result came just two weeks after Chicago had beaten Houston 2-1 at the Portland Invitational tournament during preseason.
Chicago lacking confidence
The Red Stars were many people’s Championship favourites headed into this season, and understandably so; looking back to the inaugral season of the league, they are undoubtedly the most consistent team in terms of roster and coaching turnover. Rory Dames has managed to create a unique but effective blend of youth talent and seasoned stars. Spearheaded by three of the USWNT’s finest, on paper Chicago are certainly the team to beat.
Sadly, this has not shown in their first three games - defeats to the Dash and the Portland Thorns sandwiching a slender 1-0 victory over FC Kansas City doesn’t make for particularly good reading. What is most frustrating is certainly the drought going forward - a problem which has haunted the team for years. There is certainly a feeling that if Christen Press is off, the whole attack is off, and that as proved true thus far.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Chicago though. You could easily suggest that they actually dominated their three matches so far - an argument backed up by the stats, showing that they outshot their opponents every game. If Press can find her shooting boots from last season, and the likes of Jen Hoy, Sofia Huerta, and Stephanie McCaffrey start pulling their weight, there’s little doubt the defence will do their part.
Unpredictable Dash more than capable
In almost direct contrast to the Red Stars, it’s fair to say very few expected a strong season from the Houston Dash in 2017 - but, so far, they’ve done a decent job of proving people wrong.
The win against Chicago on opening weekend was perhaps not an inspiring performance but was a more than encouraging result, and the same can probably be said about last week’s 1-0 victory over the Washington Spirit.
Despite currently occupying a playoff spot, the Dash, and particularly head coach Randy Waldrum, still have their doubters. The bizarre decision to start Jane Campbell against the Seattle Reign two weeks back, in the match that they ended up losing 5-1, was just one decision that has lead to fans questioning Waldrum.
Regardless of questions on the field, and in the backline, Houston always have quality up top. Kealia Ohai already has two goals for the year, and is undoubtedly their star player going forward. Alongside England native Rachel Daly, the Dash have one of the most powerful attacking duos in the league. Whether their side dominate a match or not, they carry a constant threat.
Clearly both teams have demons on their back and a point to prove; this is a match that could go either way but I think Chicago have more to lose and will therefore go all out for the victory, especially in front of their home fans.
Prediction: Chicago Red Stars 2-1 Houston Dash