HOUSTON – The Houston Dash entered Friday’s game against the Washington Spirit with a spot in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs still within reach, after their 4-0 win over the Washington Spirit, the reach is at arm’s length.
Houston (8-8-5, 29 points) is now one point behind the Orlando Pride for the last spot in the playoffs with three games remaining.
“It’s a great win and I think we really, really needed it because we’ve had so many times [in games] where we were just on the edge of where we could [have] score earlier and then we made it very difficult for ourselves or we gave the win away,” Dash head coach Vera Pauw said after the game.”
“And this is really what we needed so I’m happy.”
On paper, and based on this season’s performance, the Dash should have dominated the Spirit — who entered the game on a five-game losing streak, 10 points on the season, and winless on the road — and, Houston did just that putting on a show for the 3,007 in attendance.
Houston was on the front foot from the beginning. Asked at what point in their 4-0 win against Washington did the Dash now they were the better team, Rachel Daly, who had two assists, didn’t mince her words.
“From minute one,” Daly said. “We went out, we looked good and we looked sharp. There were things we needed to tweak and we spoke about it at the hydration break and we went out and got the goal and we just knew.”
Daly picked up her first assist on the game’s first goal. She played a give-and-go with Dash midfielder Linda Mothalo, who sprung Daly on the left wing with a perfectly weighted one-time pass. Daly brought the ball down and raced down the wing with acres of space in front of her.
She took two touches on the ball, got inside the box and crossed it back towards the face of goal, where Kealia Ohai ran onto it hitting a one-timed right footed shot towards the bottom left corner of the goal.
The goal is Ohai’s fifth of the year while Daly picked up her first assist of the season.
The two are no strangers to linking up on goals this month. It is the third goal this season where Daly and Ohai link up to score. Last week it was Ohai setting up Daly up for the England international’s ninth goal of the season.
“We’ve played together for a while now, it’s crazy how much time we’ve actually had together and I think we understand each other’s runs and where each other is going to be,” Ohai said. “So I definitely think we have a connection on and off the field. It’s a great partnership between the two of us.”
The Dash would try to add to that lead in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Dash midfielder Sofia Huerta jumped on a loose ball that fell to her just outside the box and let it rip, but her effort sailed over the bar.
Huerta, however, would atone for that miss five minutes later. She got the ball just over halfway line, she jogged towards goal before laying off for Dash right back Taylor Comeau, who had overlapped on the right side.
Comeau dribbled into the box before spotting Huerta open at the top of the box and sent a low cross to the Boise, Idaho native. Huerta got the ball, took one touch, and without hesitation let it rip towards goal, and past diving Spirit ‘keeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who could not reach it.
The goal is Huerta’s third of the season with the Dash and sixth overall in the season. Comeau picks up her first assist of the season.
Houston, not satisfied with a 2-0 lead, kept the pressure on and added a third goal in the 76th minute.
Daly, who entered the game leading the Dash in scoring, put on a dribbling display on the right side of the box before spotting Huerta, who had streaked into the box. Daly played a low pass to Huerta who one-timed a right footed shot into the bottom right corner.
The goal gives Huerta seven on the season, four with the Dash and three with the Chicago Red Stars, which is the most she’s scored in any season. For Daly, it’s her second assist of the game and the season.
“I think tonight I felt like I did everything but score, but you can’t win them all,” Daly said. “Honestly I think tonight was my most complete performance in a Dash shirt, aside from scoring. It was good for me and it was great to see other people on the goal sheet, which is nice.”
And the Dash weren’t done scoring.
In the 83rd minute, Latsko sent a low cross from the right wing, Daly dummied it and it fell to Kyah Simon who slotted it into the back of the net.
The Dash now turn their attention to the Seattle Reign where Houston looks to keep their playoff hopes alive. What does this type of performance do for the Dash as they head out on the r0ad next?
“It gives us hope. We just have to keep winning. Three games left and I think we just have to keep going and know that every game is literally a championship game,” Huerta said. “Cause if we lose, we’re out for sure.”