HOUSTON – The Houston Dash returned from a bye week focused on winning, but the intensity of Sky Blue FC star Carli Lloyd prevented that Saturday and they fell 2-1 at BBVA Stadium.
The Dash won both previous meetings with Sky Blue this season and controlled this game during the first 15 minutes of the match, but things got complicated after that.
During a quick start after a Houston foul, Lloyd caught the Dash defense off guard and opened the scoring for her team in the 26th minute.
Six minutes later, Dash midfield Kealia Ohai appeared to equalize, but the goal was quickly called offside. As the game advanced, the visiting team further took control of the game, and in the 40th minute Lloyd once again beat the Dash defense and Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell to score a second goal at the near post.
Dash striker Rachel Daly nearly scored with a header, but it hit the crossbar and Houston entered the locker room for halftime down 2-0.
“First half, I thought we were terrible and dug ourselves into a really big hole,” Dash coach James Clarkson said. “Credit to Sky Blue, I thought they played well the first half. They out-fought us. They worked harder than us. It’s not acceptable. First half, we were terrible. Second half, it got a little bit better.
“We’ve created enough chances to win the game, but I’m sure Sky Blue are probably thinking they could have scored more goals tonight as well — so a really frustrating and disappointing night.”
Although it has not always shown on the scoreboard this season, perseverance has been a trait of this Dash team. The issue is a lack of finishing, and that remained the case against Sky Blue.
The Dash had 18 shots total, seven more than their rival. During the last seconds of four stoppage-time minutes, one of those shots finally went in. Ohai had control of the ball and beat the Sky Blue defense, positioning herself perfectly to shoot from the 18-yard box and prevent a shutout.
But it was too late to salvage any points.
“I’m always proud of them and the way they work. It’s just incredibly frustrating because these are games we have to win and throughout this season we’ve been in situations where we’ve had had a home game if we win it really puts us in a fantastic position and we’ve blown it every single time this year,” Clarkson said.
The Dash (6-8-4, 22 points) are in seventh place out of nine NWSL teams — above No. 8 Sky Blue (4-11-4, 16 points) despite the New Jersey team’s win Saturday and the last-place Orlando Pride (4-12-2, 14 points) — and have won just two of their 10 home matches this season. Now, they will hit the road to try and salvage what is left of the season and hit the road to face the No. 3 Chicago Red Stars (9-7-2, 29 points) on Sept. 8.
“I mean, we are going to fight until the end,” Ohai said of their place in the standings with six regular-season games left. “We will take game by game. Technically we are still in the race for the playoffs. We won’t stop fighting until the last game. That’s the mentality.”