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 team needs to improve in—regardless if Houston’s result is a win, loss or draw.
1. KEALIA OHAI!!!
Kealia Ohai deserves a permanent role with the U.S. women’s national team, especially if she continues world-class finishes like her 28th-minute goal.
After Houston’s disappointing effort against Seattle, Ohai displayed what she does best in Washington.
2. The Stellar Play of Houston’s Full-Backs
Cari Roccaro and Cami Levin owned the right and left flanks on Saturday night, contributing to Houston's strong defensive performance against the Spirit, but also towards the club's attack.
Against Washington, Roccaro made her first start of the season at right back, as Randy Waldrum once again adjusted Houston’s lineup in search of a perfect starting eleven. Roccaro looked comfortable in her new role, unlike against Chicago and to a lesser degree in Seattle, where she was featured at her natural position of centre-back, the role she was primarily featured in while at Notre Dame and during her time with the United States U-20 team.
In the 14th minute, Roccaro jumped into the attack and slipped in a cross into the direction of a streaking Sarah Hagen in the 18-yard box. Washington goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé claimed the ball, just before the Dash forward could place a touch and resulted in a hard collision between the pair. While the play failed to create a shot on goal, the sight of Roccaro playmaking for Houston is encouraging, especially as the club has had trouble with creating attack chances due in large part to the absences of Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd.
Camille Levin played a key role in Houston’s defensive effort. Levin’s sliding challenge on Arielle Ship in the 62nd minute prevented a 1v1 chance for the forward against Lydia Williams. A play that without her defensive effort would've provided the Spirit with their best chance on goal in the match.
And for the second game in a row, Levin led the Dash in touches with 62, just above Roccaro’s mark of 58.
3. Quality Play from Janine Beckie
Starting in the midfield against the Spirit, Janine Beckie dropped down from her signature role on the right wing in Houston's 4-3-3 formation. The move changed up the composition of Houston's attack and allowed Beckie more freedom with the ball and resulted in her team-high four shots and four created chances. The Canadian international entered the match with only one total shot, which came in Houston’s 5-1 loss to Seattle Reign FC.
Beckie's long-range strike in the 21st minute from outside the box forced Labbé to make a diving punch to direct the ball away from goal. The play itself was initiated by a pass from Amber Brooks and Beckie's speed, as the Canadian made started her long run from near the half line and Spirit midfielder Tori Huster was unable to keep up with her pace.
1. The Second Half
The Dash relied on a superb defensive effort from their backline to hold on to their one-goal advantage against the Spirit. In an ideal performance, the Dash would've added a second goal to take some pressure off of their backline and cap the game, but in reality, Houston faced an onslaught from a Spirit side eager to find an equalizer before the final whistle. Washington attempted 10 shots in the second frame, after not having a single attempt in the first half.
2. Dash Lose the Possession Battle Again
For the second match in a row, Houston lost the battle for possession 52 percent to 48 percent, a stat that was particularly noticeable as the Dash were forced to counter-attack over the final 45 minutes. As Washington developed more quality chances in the final third in the second half, their possession rate grew from 43.5 percent to 62.8 percent and Houston’s rate shrunk from 56.5 percent to 37.2 percent, the club’s lowest mark for a single half in 2017.
3. Washington's Back Three: Whitney Church, Shelina Zadorsky, and Estelle Johnson
Saturday night's match wasn't without a strong performance from Washington Spirit's backline, as head coach Jim Gabarra decided to play with three at the back for the first time this season.
Each defender was effective in limiting the quality of Houston's chances and accurate in their passes, (Church) 87 percent, (Zadorsky) 89.3 percent, and (Johnson) 86.7 percent respectively.
Zadorsky led the match with 56 total passes, Johnson had a game-high seven tackles and 76 touches, and Church nearly had an assist on Washington's best chance of the night, as Zadorsky headed her free kick on target and forced Williams to make her lone save of the match.