Every week, Dynamo Theory will discuss three of the best moments/characteristics from the past week’s Dash game and three aspects of their play that can be highlighted as areas the club needs to improve in—regardless if Houston’s result is a win, draw, or loss.
1. The Addition of Camille Levin
When a backline allows five goals it's difficult to say that anyone had a great game, but despite being thrown into a tough situation less than a week after being acquired, Camille Levin had the best performance of any member of the Dash.
In the sixth minute, Levin played a terrific one-two with Kealia Ohai, made a long run down the left wing and picked out Rachel Daly with a perfectly weighted ball, but the English international’s header went wide of the net.
6' Levin finds Daly inside the box, but her header is off target.#SEAvHOU: https://t.co/9o1augGbR3— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) April 23, 2017
The defining moment of her high defensive work rate came in the 28th minute, as Levin cleared away Megan Rapinoe's pass across the face of an open goal, a ball destined for Nahomi Kawasumi at the far post.
Levin led the Dash in touches (72), chances created (3) and tackles (3) over the course of the match. The 27-year-old was also tied with Bruna for the team lead in passing accuracy with a mark of 84.6 percent—with the exception of Nichelle Prince who completed 100 percent of her passes after she entered as a substitute in the 71st minute.
2. Amber Brooks' NWSL Save of the Week?
Like Levin, the play of Houston midfielder Amber Brooks was a highlight in an otherwise forgettable game for the Dash. Her effort to clear Beverly Yanez’s shot away from an empty goal in the 51st minute earned her an NWSL Save of the Week nomination.
51' @abrooks22 with the huge save for Houston. #SEAvHOU pic.twitter.com/xpXTfYPdgg— NWSL (@NWSL) April 23, 2017
3. The Dash have hit bottom early
Houston entered the match without a win against Seattle Reign FC and exited Saturday's contest with that outstanding statistic unchanged. In the team's season opener against the Chicago Red Stars, the Dash faced a team that simply wasn't conditioned well enough to survive through the sweltering Houston heat for a full 90 minutes. In Seattle, where the weather wasn't a factor for either club, Reign FC thoroughly outplayed the Dash for the eighth straight time. After allowing five goals to Seattle, it's unlikely Houston can play any worse this season.
1. Randy Waldrum's Starting XI
Lydia Williams made two saves to earn a clean sheet against the Red Stars, but despite her strong showing Dash head coach Randy Waldrum made the decision to start rookie Jane Campbell in Seattle. It’s hard to fault Campbell’s effort—she faced a total of 19 shots from one of the better offenses in the NWSL. Though Williams hasn’t had any success against Reign FC, playing Campbell behind a Houston defense that is still learning to play with one another and against a veteran Seattle attack proved to be a costly error.
Campbell’s most blatant mistake in the match resulted in Kristen McNabb’s goal in the 31st minute. Instead of coming off of her line and claim the ball while it was still in the air, Campbell stood back and allowed the ball to fall.
31' Goal No. 3 for @ReignFC. What does Houston need to do to get back into this? #SEAvHOU pic.twitter.com/kiwlUD7qiw— NWSL (@NWSL) April 23, 2017
Unfortunately for the Dash, it came straight down onto McNabb's head.
2. The Growing Pains of Houston’s Backline
The cohesion between members of Houston's backline continued its work in progress status as Waldrum changed the lineup from the season opener. After Janine Van Wyk had a great performance against Chicago, Waldrum shuffled the backline playing Cari Roccaro in her preferred centre-back position and the aforementioned Levin at left-back.
When Fishlock opened the scoring in the 18th minute, she found herself unmarked at the top of the 18-yard box. Denise O'Sullivan made a late break to close in on Fishlock—after being caught ball watching—but neither she nor Claire Falknor could reach the Welsh international.
18' @JessFishlock gave the @ReignFC their first goal of the night. #SEAvHOU 1-0 #LetItReign pic.twitter.com/svwNFDYZBh— NWSL (@NWSL) April 23, 2017
The nearest defenders Bruna and Levin both attempted to close in on Fishlock, but the Reign FC midfielder had a clear look at the goal and slotted home her finish into the back of the net.
3. The Absence of Kealia Ohai*
Kealia Ohai had a dominant performance with a goal and an assist in Houston's season opener. But against Seattle, Ohai had just 35 touches the least of any player who played at least 81 minutes—the amount of time the forward played before she was subbed off. The resident offensive catalyst for the Dash attack, Ohai created zero chances and failed to register a single shot on goal at Memorial Stadium.
While she may not have been completely at fault for her lack of impact in Saturday’s match, her play signifies a pattern. Houston posted a 6-3-2 record in 2016 when Ohai scored at least one goal, compared to the club's overall 6-4-10 record which earned them an eighth place finish in the league standings.
To state the obvious, if the Dash want to achieve their first playoff berth in franchise history they can’t repeat their Seattle performance and Ohai’s ability to finish will lead the club to the promised land.