Rachel Daly scored twice and Thembi Kgatlana scored once as the Houston Dash beat the Orlando Pride 3-1 in the final match of the season between these two teams on Wednesday night in Houston. Houston (5W-5D-6L) remains in the playoff hunt as they now hold a 2-1 series lead over the Pride with the season winding down. The Dash are currently four points out of playoff position, but they have a game in hand over the fourth-place Chicago Red Stars. Houston has one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league.
Orlando (7W-4D-6L) remained in third place with the loss, but they have Chicago, Portland Thorns FC, and Utah Royals FC breathing down their necks. Seattle Reign FC, who won on Wednesday night, have jumped out to a strong lead over the teams below them and have an inside track for getting a home playoff game. The lone goal of the night for Orlando came from Syndey Leroux. It was her sixth goal of the season.
The game had a scrambled start. There were about 13 minutes of play before lightning stopped the game. It was nearly two hours before the game could resume, but both teams are very familiar with weather delays. In the 17th minute, just a few minutes after play resumed, Orlando turned over the ball to Houston forward Kaelia Ohai. She passed the ball to Daly who easily beat Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for the goal. Up to that point, Orlando had been controlling the match.
The first half ended 1-0 for Houston. When the second half started, Daly was looking for the brace. She had a close miss early in the second half, but then in the 50th minute, Daly was able to volley the ball into the goal for her second score of the night. The volley came after a block from Harris earlier in the play, but the ball came back toward the center of the box.
Orlando was knocking on the door most of the night, but they were finally able to sneak one past Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell in the 54th minute. Shelina Zadorsky played the ball into the six-yard box, and Campbell came out for the punch. She was late and lazy with her punch, and the ball found Leroux's head instead and went into the back of the net.
The last few minutes of the game were a whirlwind. Orlando worked tirelessly to score the equalizer, but they were never able. Just before stoppage time, it looked like Daly had scored the hat trick, but the goal was disallowed. Two minutes later, in the 91st minute, Kgatlana found herself faced up with Harris who was unable to come up with the save. With that goal the game was iced for Houston, but the sparks didn't stop flying. Just after the restart, Orlando midfielder and international superstar Marta let her emotions get the best of her. She was shown a red card after making contact with the face of Rachel Daly. It was the first red card of the season.
Marta will miss Orlando's match on Saturday when they go on the road to face Utah. Houston will play on Sunday at Portland.