Early on the Houston Dash looked poised to come away with a result, the first 15 minutes or so being primarily in the Dash favor. Then, momentum began to change and Washington found their groove. In the 17th minute, Lisa De Vanna played through to Jodie Taylor who put the ball into the back of the net, but linesman called it offsides. For what felt like an eternity, but in reality was only 2 minutes, the Spirit pressured constantly, winning balls in dangerous spaces and ultimately nabbing the goal in the 19th minute.
Taylor fed De Vanna, who was in space one v one against Stephanie Ochs. De Vanna put on three slick dribble moves and Ochs was beat. Erin McLeod came out to help, but De Vanna slyly put the chip over her reach and the ball sailed into the net. Washington had found their goal and for the rest of the half they continued to pressure high. The high pressure continued to force the Dash into bad mistakes leaving Erin McLeod on an island a couple of times, but thankfully the Dash keeper proved up to the task.
In the 34th minute, the Dash nearly found pay dirt as Ochs lofted the ball over the top, and Nina Burger got on the end of it. Ashlyn Harris tipped the shot just enough to deflect it into the post and sending it wide. This would be the best chance for the Houston Dash of the first half.
Much to the Dash favor, De Vanna was subbed off at the half for Perez and the difference on the pitch was noticeable. Washington's attack fizzled. De Vanna picked up an ankle knock in the first half, and even before halftime she looked to be struggling with it. With the substitution, the Dash found a bit more control of possession, and began to build their own momentum.
Multiple chances either went directly to Harris, or went wide. In the 60th minute, Nina Burger was subbed off for Kelly McFarlane and the attack found new legs. McFarlane's control and poise on the ball in traffic helped the Dash gather themselves in preparation for repeated attacks. The attack was beginning to apply the necessary pressure, and you could feel the moment was coming.
In the 71st minute, Kealia Ohai was awarded a free kick at the very edge of the box, but from the vantage point in my seat it sure looked inside the box. It probably should've been a penalty kick, but I digress. Ochs stepped up and served the ball, but nobody found the end of it. Chances like that were actually plenty, but repeatedly the Dash couldn't get anyone on the end to deflect it home.
That is, until the 74th minute off a Stephanie Ochs corner kick. The ball deflected off Kaylyn Kyle and bounced into the air in front of a completely unmarked Marissa Diggs on the back post. Diggs tapped the ball into the open net for her first ever NWSL and Houston Dash goal.
I have to take a moment to give props to Francisco Rios for absolutely calling the shot before the corner kick was taken. "Corner kick, deflection, tap in." That's not a fish tale story, that is the honest truth. When it happened, it was pretty awesome, and he had the look of like "told ya so". Going forward, everyone should tell Cisco to start making more called shots for the Dash and Dynamo. Who knows, maybe it'll help them both win!
The Dash weren't content to settle for the draw, and just like one week prior against the Boston Breakers, Kealia Ohai found that little something extra. She got past her defender and took a shot, though it was quite wide. Both teams pressed for the go ahead goal, but the combination of heat and humidity from the light rain beginning to fall quelled any major chances. Though McLeod did have to make a couple of final saves, one of which saw her collide with a Spirit player in the final moments of stoppage time as the ball careened off the post.
The draw was a fair result, and the Dash should not feel hard done by it. Up next is Chicago Red Stars in Chicago on the 26th. Six matches remain in the season, but only two of those six are home. Can the Dash find enough points in their remaining six to slip into the playoffs? Only time will tell.
Also, I feel I need to give a lot of credit to Melissa Henderson for her ability to control the ball even if the passes aren't perfect. Her first touch and trap ability are impressive to say the least, and the more time she has with Kealia Ohai in training the better their rapport will be with one another in games. We've begun to see the effect with more sustained possession higher up the pitch, and I am very very glad we got Henderson as she looks to be a solid piece to the Houston Dash puzzle going forward.
Houston Dash (5-10-2; 17 points) vs. Washington Spirit (8-7-3; 27 points)
NWSL regular season
July 17, 2014 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Washington: Lisa De Vanna 1 (Jodie Taylor 1) 19
Houston: Marissa Diggs 1 (Kaylyn Kyle 2) 74
Washington Spirit: Ashlyn Harris; Crystal Dunn (Robyn Gayle 46), Ali Krieger, Alex Singer, Niki Cross; Christine Nairn (Danesha Adams 83), Kerstin Garefrekes, Diana Matheson, Yael Averbuch; Jodie Taylor, Lisa De Vanna (Veronica Perez 46)
Unused Substitutes: Chantel Jones, Lori Lindsey
Houston Dash: Erin Mcleod; Stephanie Ochs, Marissa Diggs, Whitney Engen, Meaghan Klingenberg; Kaylyn Kyle, Jordan Jackson (Rafaelle Souza 78), Becky Edwards; Kealia Ohai, Nina Burger (Kelly McFarlane 60), Melissa Henderson (Tiffany McCarty 81)
Unused substitutes: Bianca Henninger, Arianna Romero, Kika Toulouse, Osinachi Ohale
Referee: Michael Zapata
Assistant Referees: Mark Boyko, Cory Richardson
Fourth Official: Suzanne Bilbrey