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Week 16 Preview: Dash, Spirit bring NWSL back with makeup

Kealia Ohai, center, will be a key figure for the Dash on Thursday and the rest of the season. Here she battle with the Spirit's Alyssa Kleiner. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Kealia Ohai, center, will be a key figure for the Dash on Thursday and the rest of the season. Here she battle with the Spirit’s Alyssa Kleiner. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

The NWSL returns to action this week for a single game that was rescheduled back in May due to weather.The Houston Dash and Washington Spirit meet for the second time this season in the first NWSL match in nearly three weeks, and this game could mark the first return of an Olympian, as Ali Krieger will be available for Washington.

Washington Spirit (9-3-2) at Houston Dash (3-7-3)
Thursday, 8:00 PM EDT, BBVA Compass Stadium (watch live)
All Time Series: Spirit lead, 5-1-1
Last Meeting: May 14, 2016; 1-0, Washington

They enter the match in far different positions. Even with a game in hand, Washington has had no trouble staying in the top three, although they certainly wouldn’t mind the cushion an extra three points would provide. Houston, on the other hand, although they’ve overcome their mid-season scoring drought, finds themselves in a must-win position if they’re to have even a slim hope of making the playoffs.

The Spirit have struggled on the road at times this season, which could play to Houston’s advantage. The Dash will want to run a quick game and not allow Washington’s midfield to maintain possession. The speed and turns of their forwards could prove to be effective against a Washington back line that has been a touch slower and out of sync at times without their regular starters. On the other end of the field, the Spirit attack is multi-faceted, capable of shooting from distance or sneaking one in a close range from any number of players. Dash goalkeeper Bianca Henninger will need to keep her defense organized and prevent them from getting stretched out of shape.

Players to Watch:

Kealia Ohai

Not for the first time, Ohai was moved from forward to winger in Randy Waldrum’s recent formation shakeup, and it was this move as much as anything that kicked Houston’s scoring woes to the curb. Finally nailing her first goal of the season before earning a brace against Western New York, Ohai has found her form. Whether scoring, assisting, or starting the attack, Ohai leads the Dash offense, and will need to once again to move past a strong Washington squad, particularly in the absence of Houston’s firecracker forward Rachel Daly, who was called up by England. Ohai could do some damage on the right flank, particularly if her speed is matched up against Whitney Church.

Cheyna Williams

With Crystal Dunn still not back with the team after Rio, Estefania Banini out with an injury, and Francisca Ordega fighting a nagging back injury, the focal point of Washington’s attack falls at the feet of their second-youngest player. Williams has spent most of her time on the field looking like she was just on the cusp of breaking through, and it finally led to her first career goal, against Sky Blue in Washington’s last game before the Olympic break. Williams has explosive speed and will need to use all her skill on the ball to harass the Dash centerbacks and find the back of the net.

note: streams are subject to change up to the last minute; you are advised to consult for the most up-to-date information


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