Facing off for the second time this season, the Houston Dash hosted Western New York Flash Wednesday night at BBVA Compass Stadium. Both teams were coming off history-making franchise wins last week; Houston notching a 3-0 win and New York claiming a 5-0 victory. Both teams were working on slightly different squads than when they last met due to international call ups. But the game would turn out to be no less interesting.
From the get-go, the Flash showed their great ability to pass through the midfield and press on goal. They put some heavy pressure on the Dash defense early on in the match; Becky Edwards, Stephanie Ochs and Arianna Romero did a great job blocking passes from Flash players looking to place the ball in front of goal.
Houston started to settle a bit in the sixth minute and Tiffany McCarty made a great solo run on the New York defense. However her shot would go over goal. About a minute later, the ball would land at the feet of Romero, who had acres of space to lob a pass toward the New York goal. Flash keeper Lydia Williams came off her line however and easily caught the ball.
First real scare on the Dash goal came in the 12th minute when New York was awarded a free kick. The ball was arched in to goal to a waiting Samantha Kerr, but the ref would call her offside. With possession, Houston was make a great run on goal and win a throw in. Romero would toss the ball in toward the head of Rafa Souza, but Souza would send it over goal.
Keeper Erin McLeod made a huge save in the 19th minute as Kerr made a solo sprint toward goal. McLeod came off her line confidently and dove to grab the ball. Possession would yo-yo between the two teams. Houston made several quick presses toward New York's goal and the Flash would counter with similar scary runs.
Forward Tiffany McCarty would get possession in the midfield in the 24th minute. After a fast run on goal, she would back track and pass it to a waiting Ella Masar. Masar would try her hand, but the ball would skip to Flash's keeper and Williams would easily snatch up the ball.
The back and forth would continue aggressively through the remaining minutes of the first half. Stephanie Ochs continued to make several impressive tackles, stealing the ball and giving opportunities for Houston to press forward. Dash forward Kealia Ohai would race down the right side in the 35th minute, taking a chipping shot which would bounce off the left post. It kicked back to a waiting McCarty would kicked the ball just wide of goal.
New York would be hard pressed again after a free kick from Romero would find the feet of Souza. Souza played it into Masar who would make a back heel chip pass to McCarty. Again, McCarty would try to slam the ball in the back of the net, but she would only get the side netting.
McCarty would finally get her goal in the 39th minute on a beautiful right-footed shot. High pressure from Houston allowed Masar to make a great steal from the New York defense. The ball rolled and McCarty dashed to pick it up, making a beautiful turn to beat defender Kathryn Williamson. Her rocket shot slammed in the back of the net, putting Houston up.
The Dash would get a chance for a second goal in the 43rd minute. Ochs sent a long corner kick in and defender Ohale rose for the ball. Her header would go wide. That would be the threat from the Dash in the half. But not from New York.
With seconds left in stoppage time, New York's captain Brittany Taylor would lob a ball into forward Jasmyne Spencer. Spencer let lose a chip shot that looked to go in, but McLeod was off her line perfectly and slapped the ball away from goal. The half would end 1-0 with the Dash in the lead.
The second half started off very quietly. New York would try to work into the Houston half, but the ball would be cleared time and time again. The Dash would be awarded a corner kick in the 51st minute but it would be cleared away by keeper Williams. Houston would try a few more times to notch their second goal - the final being Kaylyn Kyle with a header attempt - before possession was awarded to New York.
The easy, almost laid back confidence from Houston was very high in the opening minutes. The team was allowed to continue to press high on the Flash defense and they took advantage of it. Especially McCarty, who continued to make runs and turn on her defenders, racing toward goal.
Things turned around for New York in the 60th minute with sub Adriana Martin. The Spanish international was able to catch Dash's Ohale off her guard and send a rocket in to goal. McLeod was a bit too much off her line and couldn't get a hand on it. The teams were now level.
But Houston wasn't to be counted out. Two minutes later, Souza was able to make a pass to Ohai who shot with her right foot, forcing Williams off her line for a save. The resulting corner would see Spencer taking Kyle down from behind in the box. The ref immediately awarded the Dash a penalty.
Houston sub Teresa Noyola stepped up to the spot and buried the ball in the back of the net, putting the Dash back in front, 2-1.
Noyola would try her hand for a brace in the 68th minute when she stepped up for a long free kick. A hard shot would head toward the right corner and Williams would stretch off her line and make a diving save.
The broadcast feed on the game cut out for about 7 minutes. When it came back, New York was rewarded a corner kick, but even with seven players in the box, couldn't make anything come of the set piece. With three players up front now, the Flash tried to quickly pressure the Dash defense as often as they could.
Dash defender Marissa Diggs had been mostly quiet on the night, but came up big for Houston in the 81st minute. Jasmyne Spencer got around Ohale and sprinted toward goal. But Diggs came in for a check and got all ball, stripping the ball away.
In the 86th minute, the Dash got a chance for their third in the form of a rushing Ohai. The rookie forward went one on one with Williams, but the Flash keeper was able to get a hand on it and knock it out for a corner kick. The Dash would end up with two corners in a row, but nothing would come of them.
With four minutes of stoppage time, the tension was thick. New York continued to push forward with all players, trying to find the tying goal. Midfielder McCall Zerboni would make a shot on goal after the Flash tried to weave through the Dash defense. The ball would go way over goal and pose no threat.
A few seconds later, Spencer would try to slip the ball into the box, but Diggs would come up big again for Houston and tap the ball away. The teams went back and forth in the midfield and in the Dash half for the remaining time, but New York couldn't get that tying goal. The final whistle blew giving Houston the 2-1 victory, their third straight win and their first at home.
The progress shown in Houston in the past three weeks has been phenomenal. While there are still weak spots for the new NWSL team, the players are starting to come together and form a strong team. The defense is still of course the weak point of this team, with most of their players not being natural defenders. However, after the team's 12 matches, Stephanie Ochs and Osinachi Ohale have really found a niche in the defense. Arianna Romero is clearly a center piece of this team as well. Near the end of the match, she made some four or five saves back to back, which kept the Dash in the lead.
Marissa Diggs had another huge night for Houston as well. While she remained mostly silent through the two halves, when she did come out, she did so at needed points and played well, clearing the ball without fouling.
Another notable player from this match is without a doubt Tiffany McCarty. The forward has scored three goals in the last two matches and looks like letting up is the last thing on her mind. Her constant pressure, quick turns and speedy runs on goal had the defenders of New York scrambling after her. Her offensive presence was amazing Wednesday night.
The next match up for Houston will be against FC Kansas City and kick off at 8 p.m. CT at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston Dash - McLeod, Romero, Ohale, Diggs, Ochs, Kyle (McFarlane 82'), Masar (Noyola 62'), Edwards, Ohai, Souza (Jackson 68'), McCarty.
Western New York Flash - Williams, Reynolds, Taylor, Williamson (Barczuk 68'), Edmonds, Zerboni, Salem, Losada, Kerr (Wetzel 59'), Spencer, Bermudez (Martin 53').