How much do you believe the Houston Dash will win every match? Do you wonder inwardly if this will be the next win, or do you silently believe they will win every match? Are you thoroughly disappointed when they come up short just missing your expectations?
For me, I go into every match expecting this team to win. It seems silly. I don't do that with the Dynamo. Perhaps I'm jaded after years of subpar Dynamo regular season matches, or perhaps I just have more knowledge of the level of talent on the men's side. Or perhaps I just understand soccer is more than just a game of talent.
The Houston Dash through all of their struggles this season have keyed on one belief: they are more than the sum of their parts. This team has a feeling about them, a belief in each other few unsuccessful teams can boast. Every match as much as I believe they will win, they believe they will win.
It should come as no surprise then when the team went down a goal in the fourth minute to the Boston Breakers they were never broken. The defense played remarkably well, surrendering very few chances on goal and giving Erin McLeod plenty of space to control her box elegantly (okay, so calling McLeod's style of goalkeeping elegant is like calling a wolverine elegant, but you get my point anyways).
Early on, and throughout much of the first half, the team seemed not on the same page. They struggled to find one another on passes and through balls. Runs were mistimed, and the midfield never found a real rhythm or flow to being the pivots.
On multiple occasions I found myself deriding Kaylyn Kyle's appearance of lack of effort, only to then turn around and cheer on her fortitude to make a tackle or control possession intelligently. Becky Edwards began to vocalize. She slowly pressed into that vocal leader role, and as she did you began to see some pressure from the Dash.
The first half went down at 0-1 Breakers over Dash, but it is amazing what a break and a halftime speech can do for a team. The second half began with multiple chances, but it was none other than first round draft pick (second overall in the NWSL College Draft), Kealia Ohai, who out of nowhere became the spark with a goal you simply have to see to believe.
It is hard to tell from the vine exactly where she shot from, but to say she was a ways out is fairly accurate. The curve and power on the shot left the Boston keeper absolutely zero chance to save, and it was placed so perfectly it arced just under the top corner of the goal.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we had a ballgame. And the Dash became empowered. Their tackles were crisper, their passes more delicate and creative. They found their rhythm, and they found their momentum. Boston began to waiver, allowing more and more pressure. Heather O'Reilly for Boston pressed and crossed, but Osinachi Ohale and Whitney Engen were up to the task time and time again.
And then, on a breakaway, Ohai made a move on her defender sprinted at goal and found herself one v one with the Boston Keeper, and like that, she made the right decision and slotted it into the goal. The Dash could feel it. They were up, and it was late around the 82nd minute or so (sorry, I don't have exact times on this, I'm doing this from memory and not much else).
They didn't pack in on defense, though. They pressed, and they pushed. They weren't content with just seeing out the victory, they wanted to prove something to themselves and to the fans. And their moment came when a Breakers defender handled the ball in the box and the ref pointed to the spot. It was all but written by then, except instead of Kealia Ohai going for her hat trick, Ella Masar stepped up to the spot. Her kick was solid, powerful and well placed, but the Boston Keeper guessed correctly and blocked it out to a Breakers player who cleared it out of bounds.
The chance squandered, but the hearts not broken, the team still pushed. Tired and weary legs dragged, and the through balls into open space couldn't find the runs. Fans were growing restless, with he that sat by me saying on two occasions he could feel the equalizer coming. He didn't believe. But I believed. We believed. But most importantly, the Houston Dash believed!
And they did. They saw out the four asenine minutes of stoppage time (really ref, four?!), even doing so when going down to ten women when Ella Masar suffered a serious blow to the head on a 50/50 aerial challenge. She lay prone on the pitch for a minute or so, until finally getting up and walking off to the locker room.
I am proud to call myself a Houston Dash fan after tonight. It was a privilege to witness their second home win, and it was a privilege to watch Kealia Ohai's legend solidify. That first goal was one you see on highlight reels in Major League Soccer and abroad. But most importantly, it was a privilege to watch these ladies go out and do what I believe they will do every time they take the pitch. Win.