Take a deep, deep breath. The Dash are back in the win column.
Houston traveled to the DMV on Saturday in desperate need of a win against the Washington Spirit, and a heat index of 97 degrees at kickoff meant that both sides would have to conserve their energy if they were to put together a strong performance for the full ninety. The result was a wild affair that featured a disallowed goal, weather delay, comeback effort, and a penalty save in the dying minutes.
Despite the stifling conditions, the women in orange had a bright start to the game with an energetic high press, and they were successful in turning the Spirit over in good positions in the opening minutes. Sofia Huerta and Kealia Ohai both found themselves in pockets of space and let fly from distance, but saw their efforts go wide of the target.
The Spirit nearly took the lead in the 23rd minute off a corner when the ball fell to Andi Sullivan and she rifled a shot off the crossbar. Jane Campbell ought to be showing some extra love to the woodwork, as she had no chance of getting to the midfielder’s effort.
Washington then settled into the match and began to grab a foothold, but the Dash pushed forward on a couple occasions and sent a warning sign in the 32nd. A free kick on the right wing provided a valuable opportunity to swing in a ball into the box, and the service proved effective. Christine Nairn’s curler was perfectly flicked on by Amber Brooks to Kristie Mewis at the back post, who prodded home past Spirit ‘keeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
The celebrations began for the visitors, but a deliberation between the official and her assistant resulted in an offside call and the goal was disallowed despite the flag never being raised. Replays appeared to confirm that it was the correct call, and it was back to square one for the Dash with just under a quarter of an hour until the break.
Minutes later the teams were given a deserved hydration break, and for the remainder of the half it was the Spirit who controlled play and produced a decent chance that Campbell safely gathered. The halftime whistle blew and lightning was spotted during the break, prompting a call for fans to seek shelter.
The second half kicked off after an hour delay and it was the Spirit who appeared to have found the right recipe in the locker room. They came out flying and Cheyna Matthews stung Campbell’s palms with a blistering effort. Minutes later they edged in front through Jordan Di Biasi’s fourth goal of the campaign, the most among rookies in the league.
Nevertheless, the Dash produced a tremendous response just minutes later and got back on equal terms through Mewis following a beautiful sequence of play. How’s this for an equalizer?
The match really began to open up and James Clarkson’s side completed the comeback off another quality ball into the box from Nairn off a free kick. Amber Brooks made a run toward the near post, found just enough space in front of her defender, and made no mistake with a headed effort into the side netting.
The Spirit enjoyed most of the ball for the rest of the second stanza and had the opportunity to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat when they won a penalty in the final minute of regulation. The Dash ‘keeper had no plans of letting the lead slip away.
Houston were able to hold on for a dramatic victory, giving them their first three points in over two months. With the win they climb within two points of the Spirit, who hold the final playoff spot in fourth place.
A quick turnaround has the Orange flying across the country to take on the Portland Thorns on Wednesday night. With Saturday’s massive win in tow, maximum points from a two-match road trip against quality opponents is there for the taking.