After a second straight loss to FC Kansas City May 2, the Houston Dash look to get back to winning ways Friday, May 15, against the Chicago Stars at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
FC Kansas City held the Dash scoreless for the first time in the 2015 NWSL season and defensive woes began to once again surface for the Houston team. With Stephanie Ochs out of the remainder of the season - having undergone surgery last week for a right ACL tear she suffered against the Boston Breakers - Head Coach Randy Waldrum had to focus his attention on the back line.
With Ochs out and many other international players out with their national teams ahead of this summer's Women's World Cup, Waldrum and the team brought in defender Toni Pressley from Western New York Flash. The trade came at the cost of Houston losing midfielder Ashley Nick.
Look for Waldrum to add in Pressley to the back line and possibly even tweak positions in an attempt to find the right combination to strengthen up the Dash defense.
Up front, Jessica McDonald and Ella Masar continue to be key players in the offense for Houston. Never count out Kealia Ohai either, as her speed greatly serves Dash on runs toward goal.
While Houston has dropped their last two matches, the Chicago Red Stars have nabbed wins in their last two games. As league teams work on line ups without international stars, it looks like the Red Stars might be on to the right combo if their last game against the Boston Breakers is any indication.
The Dash will have to watch out for rookie Sofia Huerta, who was the dominant force for Chicago's offense last week. If she wasn't scoring herself (which she did twice against the Breakers), she was looking for ways to get the ball to her fellow teammates. She added an assist to her tally last Saturday as well. Named NWSL Player of the Week after the Boston match, she will be the main target for the Houston defense.
Other threats in the Chicago front line are midfielder Alyssa Mautz, who helped Huerta cause quite a bit of chaos for Boston's defenders. Several times she was crossing balls toward goal and beating her defenders to create dangerous goal-scoring opportunities.
Houston will have to work around a decent back line if they want to score Friday night. Red Stars defender Arin Gilliland was solid against Boston and nabbed her first career assist as well. Julie Johnston and Abby Erceg also helped to get the clean sheet for Chicago May 9. The defense is full of young players for Chicago, however, which could come in handy for the Dash's speedy forwards and midfielders.
Make sure you are one of the first 1,000 at the game as Coach Waldrum will be buying a beer for the first 1,000 at the game (over 21 years old of course). The match is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT Friday.