Houston Dash traveled to Chicago Saturday for an early afternoon game against the Red Stars at the Village of Lisele-Benedictine University Sports Complex. This would be the third time the two teams would face off this season; both of the previous meetings of the two ended in wins for the Chicago Red Stars.
With the playoffs looming on the horizon, Chicago headed into this game looking for a win to solidify their place in fourth in the league. The Dash were needing a win as well to keep their post-season prospects alive.
The beginning of the match started off a bit slow, both teams looking for ways to take the advantage. There were few chances from the Red Stars or the Dash within the first 15 minutes of the half. However, Houston began to show some strength in the midfield as they easily took possession several times from Chicago. A few pushes on goal were made, but nothing came from the plays.
In the 19th minute, a foul was awarded to Chicago and on the kick, Dash keeper Erin McLeod came out of her box to grab the ball and collided with a Red Stars' player. She went to ground for a few moments but after an inspection from team doctors, was back on her feet.
Though there wasn't too much excitement in the first 30 minutes of the match. That being said, Houston were more impressive, especially in the midfield. The Dash were able to strip the ball from the Red Stars and turn it back toward the Chicago goal. Chicago's defense had to scramble a few times to get back and stop the press of the Houston forwards.
The Red Stars had a chance in the 24th minute, making a quick run on the right side of the pitch. A pass landed at the feet of Christen Press, who almost had a shot. However, Dash defender Marissa Diggs made a clever little move putting off Press and allowing the ball to roll comfortably into the hands of keeper McLeod.
The back and forth continued without much offensive success from either team. However, a scary moment for the Dash came in the 38th minute as Bywaters made a great pass to Van Egmond. Fortunately for Houston, Van Egmond's touch was a bit too much and the ball sailed right over the cross bar.
In the dying minutes of the half, Press was able to break free in the midfield and race toward the Houston goal. The Dash defense scrambled to get back. Even though Press was able to get behind the defense, Diggs came up big again for Houston and knocked the ball from Press' feet.
The half would end 0-0, luckily as the last 10 minutes saw a push offensively from Chicago. Though Houston held a majority of possession through the first 45 minutes, the Red Stars found their stride toward the end and consistently pushed. The Dash held strong enough though, it was clear they would need a offensive push of their own in the second half to keep up.
As much as Houston was able to keep the ball in the first half, the tables turned in the second, seeing Chicago take the reigns of the game. Several times right out of the gate, the Red Stars picked up right where they left off, pushing up strong against the Houston defense. The Dash players in the back line, however, held strong, breaking down the attacks.
In the 62nd minute, Jordan Jackson was fouled right outside of the box, giving Houston a great free kick opportunity. Ochs took the took, but Chicago keeper LeBlanc got a hand on it, awarding the Dash a corner kick. Nothing would come of the kick except for a throw in by Romero, but again, Houston was unable to capitalize.
In the 65th minute, McLeod blocked a shot and the ball was left to trickle in front of goal. Bywaters tried to take advantage of the free ball, but was unable to get the goal. Houston's defense was holding strong against the pressure from Chicago for the time being.
The Red Stars' pressure got them a free kick near the corner in the 74th minute. Bywaters sent the ball in and McLeod went to push the ball out near the edge of goal. The ball bounced about in front of the goal and came back at McLeod, who made another punching save to award a corner to Chicago. That shot resulted in more of the ball being kicked about in front of goal. Once again, a tipping touch from McLeod would send it out.
The Dash offense was pretty stagnant for the entire second half. There was hardly a chance for them on goal, and while they were able to hold the midfield in the first 45 minutes, they couldn't manage the same in the second.
In stoppage time, a rocket left footed shot from Chicago slammed against the cross bar and was kept out as McLeod dove for it. That would be the last effort of the match, giving both teams one point in the scoreless draw.
Houston were very lucky to walk away without being scored against. While their defense did not crack under the constant pressure, the fatigue was evident toward the end of the 90 minutes. The offensive was terribly lacking and boring in the second half. Whether it was from travel or weather, the Dash hardly even saw the Chicago half of the field in the second half. Hopefully the team will work out the trouble because they will need to be on both their defensive and offensive best against Seattle Wednesday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston Dash - McLeod; Romero, Engen (79', Ohale), Klingenberg, Diggs; Jackson (66' Masar), Edwards, McFarlane, Ohai; Souza, Henderson.
Chicago Red Stars - LeBlanc; Quon, Erceg, Johnston, Hemmings; Boxx (66' Santacaterina), Van Egmond (76' Mautz), Chalupny, Leon (76' Tancredi); Bywaters, Press.