The Houston Dash (2-1-1) (W-D-L) moved into third place on the National Women's Soccer League table after they secured a 1-0 win over the Orlando Pride (0-1-4) on Sunday. It was an important bounce-back game for Houston after they were beaten 4-1 by the North Carolina Courage last weekend. Forward Kealia Ohai scored her first goal of 2019, and Orlando never put a shot on goal all match. Orlando is stuck in last place after four weeks of league play, and things are only going to get more difficult as important players depart for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Orlando never got their feet underneath them
Houston opened the match as the only team in the NWSL without a player missing due to United States women's national team camp, and it made a big difference in the match. While Orlando had to kick off without Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, Houston had their full squad available for the match.
It took just seven minutes for Houston to take the lead. Houston's Sofia Huerta collected the ball around 30 yards from her own goal and she sent a pinpoint pass about 50 yards downfield to Ohai. Orlando defenders Alanna Kennedy and Erin Greening both shadowed Ohai down the field, but she somehow came out with the ball and an open shot on goal. The attacker sent a bending ball into the side netting past the outstretched hands on Orlando goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. The pass, footwork, and shot were all exceptional, and Houston took a 1-0 lead.
Over the next 83 minutes, Houston took another 18 shots with nine of them on frame, but Kopmeyer was able to prevent a worse scoreline. Throughout the match, forward Rachel Daly and midfielder Nichelle Prince were consistently able to outplay the Orlando midfield and defense to put shots on goal. The Houston defense was consistently able to stop Orlando from getting into strong offensive positions.
Orlando came out with a new formation without Alex Morgan. Rachel Hill played the lone striker with Marta and Chioma Ubogagu playing right and left attacking midfielder respectively. Unfortunately, the game plan never really came together, and it was a constant struggle for the Pride to get on the front foot. The closest opportunity for Orlando came in the 37th minute when Hill took the ball down the left side of the pitch. She sent a long cross to the top of the six-yard box, and Marta was able to get her head on it. The header was sent just a little high and it clanged off the crossbar. Orlando would have a few more chances, but none came closer to finding the back of the net.
More departures on the horizon
After keeping their full lineup in tact this week, Houston will go on the road to play against Utah Royals FC next weekend. The Canadian women's national team is starting camp this week, so Prince, Allysha Chapman, and Sophie Schmidt are all expected to be gone.
Orlando will host Portland Thorns FC for their second meeting of the season next Saturday. Portland won the first match 2-0 on opening weekend.