Nichelle Prince is a dynamo on the field and the Houston Dash are following her lead. The Canadian international's ever ready smile belies the intensity of her game and the joy she derives from it. Sunday both characteristics helped lead her team to another come from behind win.
Even with Rachel Daly away for international duty, the team hasn't missed a beat. Houston came from behind for the second time this season and both games have come against North Carolina. Houston's win also marked the first time in team history NCC has lost when scoring three goals.
Houston plays tight defense, presses tightly and counters aggressively. Prince's speed and athleticism has helped the team stretch an opponent's defense time and time again. On Sunday, North Carolina found out there was no one who contain her one on one. Prince scored what proved to be the game winner and a capped a three goal six minute flurry to begin the second half.
A big part of my game is my speed and getting in behind," described Prince. "That was something that we needed in today's game. There wasn't a ton of opportunities that, you know, we were getting in behind, there wasn't a lot of breakaway situations or balls getting behind. Those couple of times that it did that, I tried to capitalize on that and that's kind of how my goal was scored. So just bringing kind of my individual identity and strength into the game was something I wanted to focus on.”
Prince now has a team leading five goals in seven appearances this season. Four of her five goals have come in her last four outings when the team has needed her most. More often then not, she has found herself on the receiving end of a pass from Maria Sanchez. Sunday was no difference as Sanchez' pass found her one on one with the defender. She touched right, created space and let go of a curling shot that rippled the back of the net.
“I just saw that there was a lot of space behind (the Courage)," continued Prince describing her game winner. "Obviously, Maria (Sanchez) was great at playing balls in behind and through. So, just tried to get on my bike and get in behind. I saw that I had space. And yeah, took it with my right and scored the goal.”
Beaming from ear to ear, her enthusiasm was contagious as she talked about this team and playing in a game where the Dash scored at least four goals for the second time this season. It's little wonder that this team appears relaxed and poised on the pitch.
“We're just focusing on ourselves right now and focusing on how we can individually be the best for our team and best for one another. I think we're fighting for one another. That's something that maybe we haven't always had in the past. You can see it on the field that even when people are tired, even when maybe things are tough on the field, we're fighting for one another. It helps every one of us to stay consistent half to half and yeah, I think we obviously got scored on early, but we knew we were still in the game, we definitely fought for 90 minutes plus.”
Prince, the overall 28th pick of the NWSL 2017 draft is beginning to show the skills and success that she flashed as a member of Team Canada at the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifier. That game was played on her home turf now known as PNC Stadium. Now she is the engine moving the Dash train closer to the top of the NWSL table. Houston is off to its best start in franchise history and a lot of it is due to Prince's breakout season.
Until this season, Prince had not scored more than three goals in a season. Now she has found her stride and her role on this team and her smile couldn't be bigger. Her ability to get behind defenses time and time again has not only made her more dangerous but everyone else on the team as well. Who is going to score for this team is a question the opposition has been asking and today it was Elizabeth Eddy. Prince with a big smile described Eddy as the epitome of a team player.
“Yeah, it was fun seeing her score two goals, and just seeing her confident on the offensive end today. That's another fun thing about the team that we have people who can shine and who can score goals and do big things for this team. We're not just relying on one or two players, everyone has to come out. That was huge for us to you know, get back into the game with her just putting two goals in, I think, how many minutes? Was it? Like, three or four that that was really big for us. Players just need to keep finding confidence and know that we needed each and every one of us."
Houston can hardly wait until July 1st, to renew the NWSL season and their young star continue her breakout season. The home game at PNC Stadium will kick off at 7:30pm CDT against Kansas City.