The Houston Dash traveled to Seattle Sunday to take on Seattle Reign FC on the Moda Heath Pitch at Memorial Stadium in a match that would prove to be a tough test for the Dash. With a final of 2-0 in favor of the home side, Houston started the match down early and would continue to chase Seattle through the entire game.
In the first half, it took about 10 minutes for either team to really get going and settled on the field. The Dash were pressing the Seattle back four early, trying to slip in quickly. The movement through the midfield was good, but the Reign’s defense was too hard to break. Finally, Seattle got their hold on the game and showed how they could and would control the match.
They held a generous portion of the ball, feeding passes through to forwards Sydney Leroux and Kim Little, attempting to create chances. Despite this pressure, however, the Dash didn’t back down, shutting down the chances as they came. But a few calls in the Reign’s favor seemed to get to the Dash in the 15th minute. After a quick restart, Houston midfielder Becky Edwards went for the ball as Leroux took off toward goal. Edwards tripped Leroux up in the box and the ref called a penalty in favor of Seattle.
Little stepped up to the spot and easily slipped the ball past Dash keeper Erin McLeod. However, being a goal down didn’t stop Houston from continuing to push against Seattle through the rest of the half. Half way through, Dash’s Lindsay Elston provided a flick from the right side toward Reign’s goalkeeper Hope Solo, looking for someone to get the final touch and the tying goal. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone to take advantage of the service.
The match would continue on with most of the possession firmly in Seattle’s grip. Then, as if things weren’t shaky enough for Houston, it got a little worse near the half hour mark when defender Nikki Washington went down after stopping an attack from Seattle. She had to exit the field for a bit of treatment, leaving the Dash down a player for at least three minutes. The Reign used the time to make some close calls on the Houston net. Thankfully, none ended in goals and Washington was able to come back into play.
After several rushes on the Dash defense, Seattle would find their second goal from the feet of Kim Little, again. Rushing down the pitch, Reign’s Bev Goeble delivered a nice volley toward the Dash defense. Little was waiting, beating two Houston defenders and easily slipping the ball toward the back post.
Things got a little chippy between both teams in the last five minutes of the first half, mostly from the Reign. The home team received several warnings from the refs, but no cards were issued, which would be the overall theme of the match.
The greatest chance from Houston all half came right in stoppage time as Elston made a pass into a waiting forward Ella Masar, who attempted a shot. It was deflected, but Masar was there to make another try at a scrambling Solo. Unfortunately, the shot would skirt just a few inches wide of the near post.
The second half saw much of the same out of both teams. Continued pressure from Seattle in the form of Leroux and Jess Fishlock wore down the Dash in both the midfield and the defense. However, Houston did have a little life offensively. Fighting and scraping for possession, they were able to make Solo scramble for some impressive saves through the half.
Erin McLeod had her own great save near the 60 minute mark as Seattle took a shot from outside the 18-yard box. The ball came rocketing in and McLeod was able to jump up and bat it away.
Through the course of the second half, Seattle’s chances on goal would not diminish. However, the Dash’s defense looked steadier than in the first half.
After a big chunk of little to no offensive play for the Dash, Houston were awarded two corners that unfortunately came to nothing. A deflection on the second corner nearly saw a third goal for Seattle as the ball found Little, who had a great run down the pitch. Leroux would be called offsides, however, on Little’s pass, thankfully killing the play.
Houston did their best to put as much pressure on Seattle as they could during the dying minutes of the match.
Seattle nearly went up 3-0 in stoppage when Leroux got the ball in the midfield and was completely open to make a run toward goal. McLeod came way off her line to make the block, but Leroux skirted around her. With a wide open goal in sight, she made the shot and the ball bounced off the near post, to the sighs of relief from Dash players and fans.
The final whistle sounded and would give the Reign their third straight home game win of the season.
The biggest problem from the Dash in the match wasn’t really their defensive play - though the scoreline would seem to say different - it was their ability to hold possession. As soon as the ball came to a Houston player, it wouldn’t be long before they lost it, unable to make essential one-two touch passes to one another and get the ball through the middle of the field. They were able to remedy that just a touch in the second half, but not enough to be too much of a threat.
It’s clear the Dash are young and have some inexperience. However, their willingness to continue to push and fight through the match is evident and very important. Despite being run practically ragged through the match by Seattle, the players continued on and pushed for a goal. They did not make things easy for the Reign, either. With luck and a few more matches under the belt, Houston can definitely settle and be even more of a force to reckon with.
Houston Dash: McLeod, Romero, Ohale, Hein, Washington (Ochs 67'), Jackson, Noyola (Diggs 46'), Edwards, Ohai (Toulouse 46') , Masar, Elston.
Seattle Reign: Solo, Reed, Barnes, Fletcher, Cox, Winters, Fishlock (Deines 88'), Little, Kawasumi, Goebel (Foxhaven 72'), Leroux.