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Daly returns from World Cup to help Dash in playoff push

When the Houston Dash take the field Saturday in a key road matchup against the playoff hopeful Washington Spirit, they will be welcoming back an important part of their goalscoring arsenal.

Forward Rachel Daly, fresh off her five appearances for the England national team at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, will be making her first appearance for the Dash since a 2-1 road victory over Utah Royals FC on May 11. While Daly scored the two goals that propelled the Dash to another away result and to the top of the NWSL table at the time, a 90th minute red card caused her to miss a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars on May 19, as well as the Dash’s recent 1-0 loss to the same Red Stars team on July 13.

Sandwiched between the two matches against the Red Stars was Daly’s callup to represent England at the World Cup, which was something she had been looking forward to since childhood.

“It’s everything I’d ever dreamed of as a kid,” Daly said of her World Cup experience. “When you play football when you’re a kid, it’s everyone’s dream to play in a World Cup and be at the highest stage for your country.”

“Being with England is such a huge honor, whether it’s a friendly or a tournament game. Being on the world stage was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in football.”

After an unused substitute appearance in England’s opening group-stage match against Scotland and a four-minute cameo against Argentina, Daly got her chance in the closing group-stage match against the returning runners-up Japan, starting up top and playing the full 90 minutes as England avenged their knockout round loss to Japan in the previous World Cup cycle with a 2-0 victory that secured the Three Lions the top position in their group.

Entering the knockout stages, Daly did not feature in England’s victory over Cameroon in the round of 16 and appeared for two minutes in the quarterfinals against Norway. In a crucial semifinal match against the defending champion United States, Daly was inserted into the starting XI. Despite an early equalizer from Ellen White, England were unable to defeat the United States. For the third-place match against Sweden, Daly subbed on in the 82nd minute as England fell 1-0.

After a slow start to her international career under coaches Hope Powell and Mark Sampson that saw her in-and-out of their national team plans, Daly saw the hiring of Phil Neville before the 2018 SheBelieves Cup as a key figure to her recent international success and increase in appearances.

“Having that confidence from your coach is a big deal,” Daly said of Neville. “One thing he does is instill confidence into me, and I think I play my best football when I’m at my most confident state. It’s definitely a big positive for me having him around.”

In her fourth season with the Dash since being selected as the sixth overall selection at the 2016 NWSL College Draft, Daly said that her experiences as a member of the Dash has prepared her for her successes and challenges with the Three Lions.

“I think we’ve had some highs and lows over the four years. We’ve been successful, we’ve not been successful, but I think that’s helped me as a player in my role on the team, and what I can do to ensure that we’re successful,” Daly said on her time with the Dash. “I think I’ve taken more of a role of “What can I do to help?”, rather than “How can I solve the issue?”

“I think learning a bit more about me has been a factor over the four years.”

The Dash are 4-1-1 with Daly in the lineup. After winning 2-1 against the Washington Spirit on Saturday night, the Dash are back on the road to face the Portland Thorns on July 24, whom currently sit in the NWSL playoff picture. Despite the challenge, Daly is optimistic about the team’s expectations.

“I think we have to get at least four out of six points, minimum. We have to take points out of these two games if we want to be in contention to be anywhere near the playoffs.”

The Houston Dash will take on Portland Thorns FC Wednesday, July 24 at 9:30 pm CT. The game will be livestreamed on Yahoo! Sports.

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