The Houston Dash will travel to Orlando, Florida, this week for their first road trip of the season. The Dash opened the 2016 NWSL season with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars, while the Orlando Pride fell to the Portland Thorns in a contest that finished 2-1 at Providence Park on Sunday.
Dash head coach Randy Waldrum emphasized two points as the team prepares for its first of four matches against the NWSL’s newest club on Saturday (6:30 p.m. CT; HoustonDashSoccer.com/live).
“It’s going to be a different look from what we saw with Chicago," Waldrum said. "Orlando plays with five players in the midfield, they like to congest that area of the field. So, that’s one thing we will have to work on this week, how to break that line.”
Orlando is led by U.S. Women’s National Team Forward Alex Morgan, who spent the last three seasons in Portland. Dash fans can also expect to USWNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Canadian National Team players Kaylyn Kyle and Josee Belanger to start on Saturday along with Becky Edwards, who joined the Dash in 2014 as part of the expansion draft.
Waldrum is also evaluating factors outside of the action on the pitch as Orlando expects more than 20,000 spectators at its home opener. This would not be the first time the Dash are involved in a potential record setting match. The team played before 19,123 fans against Portland Thorns FC in a match at Providence Park in August 2014, then the league's record attendance.
“The other thing we have to keep in mind is how are we are going to cope with playing in their first home game as an expansion team and the great crowd we hear they are going to have,” Waldrum said. “Whether that’s 20,000 to 30,000, it will be great. Those two things are going to be the biggest challenges that we will face.”
Prior to this season, Waldrum was the only head coach in the league to enter with an expansion team and he understands the various challenges that Orlando will face this season, especially in its first home game.
“It is so exciting to be a new franchise, I’m sure they will be ready and Tom [Sermani] will have them well organized,” Waldrum said. “The key for us is to maintain our discipline defensively and don’t get caught up in all of the external factors that we can’t control.”