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Nichelle Prince caps off a dominant Houston Dash win with a hat trick

Her third goal was my favourite of the lot

NWSL: Orlando Pride at Houston Dash Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dash are all set up to face off against Angel City FC tonight and Nichelle Prince will be looking to add more goals after her Player of the Match performance last weekend.

The Canadian international scored a hat trick, her third capping off her performance beautifully, and I think we should all take a look back at her brilliance one more time.

Goal No. 3

Instead of taking each goal in chronological order, I’m going to start with the last and the best of the three that Prince scored against the Orlando Pride. The Dash were already three goals up against the visitors, with Prince having scored two and Rachel Daly adding the third with a wonderful header. The aim now was to put the game to bed and Prince made sure of that with a fabulous chip.

After some great work at the byline by Shea Groom, Prince found herself in some space inside the box, albeit at a difficult angle. Most players would’ve taken a touch inside to try and give themselves a better shot angle but Prince, brimming with confidence, decided to go for an audacious chip with her weaker foot instead.

A perfect hat trick is usually described as having scored a goal with your left foot, right foot and head. I’d argue that Nichelle Prince’s hat trick is as close to perfection as you can get despite not scoring with her head. The cheek to decide that she’ll chip her Canadian national team teammate Erin McLeod (who’s no slouch in goal either) without even taking a touch, is what football is all about.

Goal No. 1

This was Nichelle Prince’s first goal of the night, the one that sent the Dash on course for a big victory against the Pride. Rachel Daly had dropped into midfield and Prince exploited the gap she had left by racing in from the right to the middle, beating the offside trap set by Orlando at the same time.

Kerry Abello, the defender who had tracked Prince’s run actually makes a great tackle to try and stop Prince once she gets on the ball but the deflection falls to Prince’s feet and with McLeod advancing on her quickly and with other defenders racing to the goal line, Prince finds the pocket of space no one can cover and puts the ball into the back of the net,

What impressed me the most about this goal wasn’t just the timing of the pass and the run, but the composure Prince showed once she got inside the box. She rides Abello’s tackle and doesn’t panic when the ball comes to her again. Instead, she makes sure to put enough pace and placement on the ball that despite a lunging tackle to save the goal, the defender can do nothing but deflect the ball into the net, the same place it had been headed towards. That’s the sign of a player who’s not only on top of her game but also truly locked in.

Goal No. 2

Nichelle Prince’s second goal of the game took a healthy bump off a defender before finding the back of the net but that doesn’t take away from the movement and finishing technique that Prince employed to try and score. Once again, Prince timed her run perfectly and once she was inside the penalty area, chose the right shot selection to find the back of the net.

Now, had the ball not taken a deflection, Erin McLeod may have gotten a hand to it due to the bend that Prince had put on it (which looked like it wasn’t enough) but again, the shot selection was the right one. One of the key things plaguing a lot of teams in the NWSL right now is the inability to score multiple goals. That comes from poor shot selection once a player is in on goal. Prince doesn’t seem to have that problem so far this season, scoring four goals in six appearances. She’s started off the season strong and if she continues to maximise her chances in goal, it’ll help push the Dash further up the table and possibly into the playoffs for the first time in their history. That’s a long way away though but right now, Prince is “in the zone” so to speak and her performance against Orlando exemplified that.

Nichelle Prince is currently developing her game at a rapid rate and now she’s added the ability to find the back of the net from anywhere in, and around, the penalty area. She will face a solid backline in Angel City but if she continues on with the amount of self-belief she currently has, Prince is going to give the LA side fits tonight.