After a needed road win against the Portland Thorns last week, the Houston Dash are ready to jet across the country to take on Sky Blue FC in New Jersey on Sunday.
The win against Portland was vital for Houston. Not only did Jessica McDonald notch a goal against her former team, but keeper Bianca Henninger made a massive eight saves to give the Dash the shutout earning her NWSL Player of the Week honors. The 1-0 scoreline would give the Dash their first win since opening day of the 2015 season - which will hopefully boost them for the cross country trip.
The match up against Sky Blue FC will be the second time Houston has faced the New Jersey team this season. In a recent Dash Check In video, team members expressed the importance of continuing the momentum, which they feel they can do.
"It was important for us to know that we could do that, win against good teams in this league," said Dash forward Tiffany McCarty. "I think we proved to ourselves what kind of team we are and moving forward that's the level we need to set for ourselves."
Head Coach Randy Waldrum has been working the team on possession and finding a rhythm of play. He said they also are focusing on the defensive side heading into the match up against Sky Blue, but pointed out work on the Dash's attack is definitely needed.
"One of the things we found last time (against Sky Blue FC) was that they were really good defensively and they were hard to break down," said Waldrum. "I look for it to be a really, really tight game."
Sky Blue are on a six-game winless streak themselves. Sky Blue is coming off a 1-1 draw against the Boston Breakers. Midfielder Katy Freels was the scorer for SBFC in that match up, with forward Nadia Nadim picking up the assist. Currently, the team is tied with the Chicago Red Stars for the most goals allowed from corners and have yet to score from one. Set pieces could be a key factor for the Dash in the Sunday game.
Breaking through the Sky Blue defense and keeper Brittany Cameron will be key, of course. Looking to break their winless run, Sky Blue could be prepared to dig in their heels and hold, should they score early again.
However, history is on Houston's side. When the two teams meet in April, Sky Blue scored first with Freels notching the goal in the 14th minute. But the Dash were able to wear SBFC down and early in the second half, Jessica McDonald scored to tie up the match.
If Houston can be more aggressive in possession and attacking early, they could get the lead early against a struggling Sky Blue and keep it to pick up some needed three points.
The match will kick off at 2 p.m. CT Sunday, May 31.