With only limited sports restarting due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the NWSL Challenge Cup has been a tonic for fans of women’s football. Although many players have stood out, there has perhaps been one that has particularly caught the eye. Houston Dash and England powerhouse, Rachel Daly, has been the talk of the tournament, and has finally been able to show her supporters on both sides of the pond what she is really made of.
Rachel Daly is about as versatile as they come. Typically positioned as a fullback for England, but a forward for the Dash, she can play at the front, back and everywhere in between. Her adaptability often alluding to the fact that Daly could, quite comfortably, occupy any of the ten outfield positions on the pitch. And frankly, if her goal line clearances are anything to go by, she would most likely have a good old go with the gloves on as well.
Whether she is attacking the goal or defending it, she is a player that will keep you on your toes. Defensively, Daly is willing to do the dirty work. She will go toe to toe putting the pressure on, almost wrestling to win the ball until the very bitter end. Yet where Daly is adept in holding a back line, her yearning to press forward is always apparent. In fact, it is when she is on the attack that she really comes alive.
As a striker she is gutsy, yet composed. Assured, yet unpretentious. Selfish when she needs to be, but unselfish for the good of the team. A defensive mistake? She will pounce on it. Unmarked space? She will exploit it. A shot on goal? She will score it. Putting it quite simply, Daly harbours all the attributes of a rather proficient forward player, and it is a crying shame she has not been able to exercise these with the national team more often.
But whilst she has perhaps been underutilised for her country, she is absolutely a vital piece of the puzzle for the Dash. With a tireless work ethic, a sedulousness that seldom falters and a lengthy personal history with the club, Daly lies at the very heart of the Houston Dash. It is fitting therefore, that she now wears the armband as one of Houston’s captains. And my doesn’t she wear it well. Daly’s play has seemingly elevated since taking on the captaincy. Her impassioned leadership another string to add to her bow.
She does not however, just draw command from her teammates. As a spectator, it is difficult to resist the charms of Captain Daly. Whether she starts a match or is substituted on, she makes an impression. With no time to sit and stare, Daly’s game is quick, and she brings an instinctive urgency to get things moving. She possesses a pace that is somewhat nightmarish, often appearing to be everywhere all at once.
Speed, of course, is advantageous, yet it is of little use without a certain timing acumen. Daly here, is skilled. She is able to time her runs to perfection and habitually finishes them off with accuracy. Yet, she is capable in assisting others. With an eye to spot a goalscoring opportunity, Daly will knock out a cross, a through ball or a square pass effortlessly. Likewise, this is seen in her taking of set pieces, of which she delivers with a pinpoint precision.
On and off the pitch, Daly is a risktaker; she has gone against the grain. But she has done so with a moral mindset and a true self-belief that have led to both individual and collective successes. After her recent performance in the Challenge Cup, what is clear is that Daly has not yet had her day with the Lionesses. But with managerial changes on the horizon, and a hoard of international tournaments on their way, her time is surely just around the corner. With a fully rounded skillset and a passion that radiates; world, you best take note of Rachel Daly.
Our Lioness to flaunt, all Daly long.