Harrogate-born Rachel Daly dazzling at Houston Dash

Friday 03 Jun 2016
Rachel Daly during England training at St. George's Park
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When you are being recognised for individual awards while playing alongside the World Player of the Year you know you must be doing something right.

Harrogate-born Rachel Daly has enjoyed a blistering start to her National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) career with Houston Dash.

So much so that she was named the NWSL Player of the Week in April, her reward for outperforming her peers, including USA’s World Cup-winning captain Carli Lloyd, as Daly nabbed a goal and an assist in the Dash's 3-1 win against Chicago Red Stars.

England v Serbia

UEFA Women’s Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
5.30pm, Saturday 4 June 2016
Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers FC
Live on BBC Two
Tickets priced £7.50 adults, £3.50 children

Her form hasn’t gone unnoticed on these shores either, as Lionesses boss Mark Sampson handed Daly only her second England call-up, ahead of the Euro 2017 qualifying double-header against Serbia.

Daly said: “It's great for me to be in this squad. I've worked hard away from here to make a name for myself.

“Ultimately, being part of this squad is my goal. It's great to be here, great to be in and around everyone, see some old faces, see some new faces.

“It's hard when you're not under Mark's nose and he can't see you all the time. But you can watch the NWSL on a live stream every week so that does make it easier.

“[Mark] was in touch with my college coach and my coach at Houston too. He's been paying attention and been watching me quite a bit.

“It's nice that he is able to watch me and that I can get his feedback even though I am over in the States.”

She continued: “I think I've settled in fine.

“I grew up with Izzy [Christiansen], Demi [Stokes] and Lucy [Bronze] in the youth set-up. I've been in and around a lot of them at club level too. It's great to slot in and feel comfortable around everyone.”

An 18-year-old Daly won The FA Women’s Premier League Cup with Leeds Carnegie in 2010 before signing for Lincoln Ladies.

England captain Steph Houghton gets Rachel Daly in a headlock during training

Daly has been made to feel welcome by her England team-mates

But then she realised she wanted to get an education in America, and take herself out of her comfort zone, so she studied a sports management degree at St. John’s University in New York.

And it was at St. John’s that she rediscovered her goalscoring touch, having gradually been moved to full-back following her early days as a forward.

She explained: “Something I like doing is being up there and scoring goals.

“As I came through the ranks with England, I was moved to full-back. I stayed there for a long time. I think it was just about getting the consistency of one position.

“When I went to America my college team needed a forward so I stepped up and haven't looked back since.

“They weren't scoring goals so my coach gave me a go up front in training and that was it. I focused on that position in the off-season and it ended up paying off.

“I love it up top. I'm more confident up there than ever.”

And she certainly impressed while leading the line for St. John’s, joining Houston Dash as the sixth overall pick of the 2016 NWSL College Draft.

The 24-year-old added: “That was another big change for me.

“College football is very physical with a lot of games squeezed into a short season. But the level and the speed of play in the NWSL is definitely a step up.”

Daly has represented England at U15s, U17s, U19s and U23s level but has yet to make her senior team bow.

She said: “It's every kid’s dream to put on an England shirt and represent your country.

“To make my debut would be great so I'm obviously excited by that prospect.”

By Glenn Lavery