The Houston Dash made short work of a threadbare Boston Breakers team this evening in the National Women's Soccer League, running out as 3-1 winners at the end of the match. Sarah Hagen put in a star performance as the Dash won their first game since beating the Breakers at the end of July.
The first half ends with a goal for each team
The Dash had lost the services of Carli Lloyd through injury over the course of the week but they came out into this game determined to get the three points. Goalkeeper Abby Smith was called into action four minutes into the game after Sarah Hagen slipped a great ball through to Nichelle Prince. Smith was quickly off her line and was able to block Prince's effort to keep the score at 0-0. The lead did not last long however as six minutes later, a collision between Smith and Rachel Daly allowed Hagen to put the rebound into an empty net and hand Houston the lead early on in the game. Both Daly and Smith would be involved in the action soon afterwards as Daly broke free from the defense but Smith pulled another big save to stop the English forward from scoring.
Full credit to Boston however as they pulled themselves together and found a way back into the match. The ball fell out wide to Margaret Purce in the 26th minute, who was filling in at right back tonight as injuries continue to decimate the Breakers roster. Purce jinked her past Janine Beckie and found Natasha Dowie coming in at the far post to finish from close range and tie up the game. The Breakers found their momentum after that goal and caused pure havoc in the Houston penalty area around the 31st minute when Purce picked out Dowie again. The Dash backline failed to clear the ball properly and it fell first to Angela Salem and then Amanda DaCosta but neither player was able to find the back of the net. DaCosta almost got the go ahead goal late in the first half after a free-kick for the Breakers was initially punched away by goalkeeper Jane Campbell but Pliana put her body on the line and blocked DaCosta's effort.
Fatigue takes its toll on the Breakers in the second half
As mentioned before, injuries forced a patchwork defense onto Breakers' head coach, Matt Beard's hands and the makeshift backline could not deal with the Dash offense in the second half. Prince and Beckie combined in the 64th minute to put Houston ahead and in the 79th minute, after having her first shot saved, Hagen made it three to one for the visitors. Smith was most certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second half as the Dash began to slice through Boston on a regular basis, and it became apparent that the Breakers just could not overcome their injuries enough to keep Houston from winning.
As if tonight's loss was not enough, news broke that Purce was playing with a hamstring injury which could lead to a lengthy spell on the sidelines. She now joins Brooke Elby, Christen Westphal and Rose Lavelle on the injury table and as of right now, those three players are still a long way away from returning to action. The Breakers may see a season that started out so brightly falter and fade with barely a whimper due to the number of injuries they have faced this season. For the Dash, Kealia Ohai is still recovering from injury and Lloyd is out as well but will return sooner than Ohai. Until then, with only four points separating them from reaching the NWSL Playoffs, they just need to find a way to win until their best players return so they can try and make a big push for those top four places.