The Houston Dash closed out the 2020 NWSL Fall Series with their third consecutive win, defeating the Orlando Pride 2-1 tonight at Osceola County Stadium.
With the win, the Dash finish the Fall Series with a 3-1-0 record and nine points, guaranteeing them at least a top-two finish in the Verizon NWSL Community Shield and at least a $15,000 grant for the NAACP of Houston. If the Portland Thorns draw or lose on Saturday night versus OL Reign, the Dash would clinch the Community Shield and increase the grant earnings for NAACP Houston to $25,000.
The Dash opened the scoring in the 13th minute through two familiar faces – midfielders Kristie Mewis and Shea Groom. Mewis made a 70-yard sprint to catch up to a Houston counterattack and get onto the end of a diagonal pass from forward Bri Visalli. The midfielder collected the ball near the byline and fired in a cross that found the head of Groom as she sprinted into the box on a delayed run, and the Texas A&M alum powered her header into the back of the net.
Veronica Latsko doubled Houston’s lead in the 29th minute when she raced onto a through pass from Mewis inside the penalty area. The forward ran in behind the Orlando back line and beat Orlando goalkeeper Brittany Wilson to the ball. Her touch past Wilson took her away from goal, but Latsko was able to slot it home from a tight angle.
Orlando pulled a goal back in the 47th minute when forward Sydney Leroux lifted a centering pass into the roof of the net just 70 seconds into the second half. Defender Abby Elinsky worked free on the right flank before playing a low ball to the near post where Leroux ran on to it and redirected it into the net.
The Dash forced Wilson into a pair of brilliant saves early on in the second half. Midfielder Sophie Schmidt blasted a right-footed shot from outside the penalty area in the 55th minute that required an acrobatic diving save from Wilson to keep it out of the upper corner of the net; then Mewis rifled a left-footed shot in the 58th that sent Wilson diving low to her right to push it wide of the goal.
Goalkeeper Jane Campbell came up with a massive save in the 77th minute when she denied Orlando forward Marta from 12 yards away to keep the Dash ahead. Campbell finished the evening with two saves in earning her seventh victory of the season in all competitions.
The Verizon NWSL Community Shield is an 18-game series involving all nine teams in the league. The teams were divided into three-team pods, with Houston grouped with North Carolina and the Orlando Pride. Each team will play four matches – home and away against each of the other two teams in their pod – and the team with the highest point total at the conclusion of the series will be declared the winner.
As part of the Community Shield, each of the NWSL’s nine clubs will partner with small businesses or programs in their community, and the team with the most points at the end of the Fall Series will be awarded the Verizon Community Shield and the opportunity to present a grant of $25,000 to their community partner, made possible by Verizon. $15,000 and $10,000 will be presented to the second and third-place teams, respectively.