The Houston Dash and the Boston Breakers will test their mettle at Harvard Stadium on Sunday, April 20, at 5:30pm. The two teams battle in what will be the second week of the NWSL’s second season.
The away game comes after a thrillingly close loss to the Portland Thorns. The Dash opened up against the Thorns in their inaugural match to a sellout crowd of over 8,000, which is well above the league average of ticket sales. The game featured such local celebrities as Mayor Anise Parker, Brian Ching and Houston Dynamo captain Brad Davis. Though the game ended in a loss, the Houston Dash received a standing ovation of overwhelming enthusiasm.
The Houston Dash are looking to convert that energy into a win against the Boston Breakers Sunday.
The Breakers have a history stretching back to 2009 in the WPL. The team flourished in the Women’s Professional Soccer Elite League in 2012, finishing first. When the NWSL was formed in 2013, the Breakers became one of the eight inaugural teams. That year, they finished fifth overall with a record of 8-8-6. At their home of Harvard Stadium, the Breakers held a scant home field advantage of 5-3-3. Sunday’s game will be the Breakers’ opening home game.
Injuries may make all the difference
By the second game, Houston’s injury list is starting to fill up. Before the season even began, Lauren Sesselmann and Aya Sameshima received injuries that altered Head Coach Randy Waldrum’s roster plans.
The Dash’s opening game brought a mix of good news and bad. It would seem that Waldrum’s deep roster is able to compensate for unforeseen injuries. Waldrum called upon a variety of players, some international, to fill the gap. Mexican international player Arianna Romero, whose fans can always be spotted by the sombreros they wear, made speedy dashes up the sideline to feed the ball across to waiting forwards. Osinachi Ohale, from Nigeria, settled into the defensive line with a composure and speed that showed why she had played for Nigeria in the 2012 Women’s World Cup.
During the same opening game that Ohale and Romero shined, Brittany Bock and Kaelia Ohai suffered injuries. Veteran Bock was injured only a few minutes into the game and Ohai soon followed. Bock, who was praised during the preseason for her leadership and offensive capabilities, is out for the 2014 season with a torn ACL. Ohai is expected to return after she has worked out her ankle injury.
On the Boston Breakers side, midfielder Kristie Mewis will not be playing. Mewis was chosen as the third overall draft pick of the NWSL in 2013 and scored one goal for the Breakers.
What would Waldrum do?
Without Bock and Ohai, who both started the last game, Waldrum may choose to substitute directly or to switch the format of his players. Mexican National player Teresa Noyola was called upon to replace Bock in the game against the Portland Thorns. In collegiate play at Stanford, Noyola specialized in assists, tying second place in the overall assists list in with 40. Her ability to deliver the ball to the right foot may help put the Dash’s first goal in the books. Ohai may be replaced by Lindsay Elston or Stephanie Ochs. Both women saw playing time against the Thorns, with Ochs receiving the most minutes. The Dash are also flying Rafa Souza into Boston for the game. She is on the roster but currently finishing her degree at Ole Miss but with the thinned roster they may need her Sunday.
During the opener against the Portland Thorns, the Dash played a 4-3-3 format. The combination of Brittany Bock and Becky Edward’s chemistry and athleticism was envisioned as a spear to cut through the toughest lines. At the top, Ohai was paired with Ella Masar and Stephanie Ochs. Without Bock and Ohai, Waldrum may choose to return to a more conservative 4-4-2 style. If he chooses this route, midfielder Domique Richardson may be called upon to fill in the extra midfield spot. Richardson was a trialist signed to the team only a couple of weeks before the opening game.
After facing the Breakers, the Houston Dash will take on Seattle Reign FC on April 27th at 6pm. Their next home game will be May 3rd against FC Kansas City.