The Houston Dash (0W-2D-3L, 2 points) appear to have regressed through five games more than they have progressed since the start of the season. Their 2-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage in front of a nationally televised audience was worse than the score indicates. Outplayed in every facet of the game but particularly in the midfield, there is little to be pleased about.
“Our battle was lost in midfield, not because we didn’t have threat from our strikers,” began Pauw in explaining what went wrong. The battle was lost in the midfield. This is where our worry area is.”
A midfield that could not seem to string together enough passes to constitute a possession creating offense (36.1%). An offense that would attempt just five shots in the first 26 minutes of play and then none for the next 46 minutes.
“We came out with a game plan, but we were not in time on all the positions in the first half. We could break a lot, which is a positive side of that. We had a lot of counter attacks that put us in front of the goal, but there’s not enough threat in there,” reiterated Pauw.
It’s never a good thing when your defensive mid (Amber Brooks) is your leading shot taker. Of the attacking players, only Nichelle Prince and Kyah Simon one shot each had an attempt on goal in the match.
From Crystal Dunn’s opening goal in the third minute of there was little doubt as to whom the better team was on this warm afternoon in late April. The early goal was a harbinger of things to come. The play so one sided that the Dash faced a minus nine shot deficit, claimed barely one-third of the possessions, and looked to be like a team without direction and that was just the first 45 minutes of play.
The second half began much the same as the first despite the move from a three back set-up to a the more traditional four back line. Just three minutes in, Kristen Hamilton rocketed a shot from distance extending North Carolina’s unbeaten streak to six straight.
In the final 12 minutes, Houston began to reveal a pulse but by then they had been outshot 26-6, outscored 2-0 and left wondering about what might have been with the return of Kealia Ohai and Australian Kyah Simon.
Houston’s best chance came in the 85th minute when Simon ran onto a ball at the top of the area, skipped past a defender and fired a shot with the outside of her right foot that just missed wide of the target.
Ohai logged nearly an hour of play in just her second match back from and ACL injury that derailed her last season.
“Kealia, I’m really proud of her because of the way she pushed forward and the way she took on the opponents coming back from an injury,” continued Pauw. “This is something you need to admire, because she pushed forward and asked for a few more minutes in the second half because she felt she could do something. It’s fantastic to have a player like that.”
It is expected that Ohai and Simon will team up to bring not just excitement to the pitch but positive results as well. Simon, formerly of the now defunct Boston Breakers, returned from leading Australia to a 2019 FIFA World cup berth logging 90 minutes.
“Yeah, obviously for me on a personal note good to be back in the league and get my first game under my belt,” said Simon “It wasn’t the result that we wanted or planned for but definitely some things we can work on and take away from the game and go into the rest of the season and build on that. There is a silver lining with that and positives that can come from every loss so looking forward to what we are going to work on next week for our clash next weekend. Hopefully we can combine and have good cohesion and create some goal scoring opportunities and bang some goals away.”
Houston’s next chance to bang home some goals comes next weekend when they face Sky Blue FC at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. The Dash return to BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday, May 9 to host the defending NWSL Champions, Portland Thorns FC.