PISCATAWAY, NJ — The inaugural NWSL season for the expansion Houston Dash came to a disappointing end in New Jersey as the team dropped a narrow 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC. The result leaves the Dash in 9th place in the NWSL standings and gives them the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft.
Goalkeeper Bianca Henninger kept the Dash in a first half where Sky Blue got 10 shots away. In the seventeenth minute, Kelley O’Hara broke through the middle of the defense but Henninger charged off her line and caught the one-on-one attempt.
Sky Blue got the opening goal a minute later. Sophie Schmidt played a diagonal ball into the box for a streaking Monica Ocampo, who hit a first-time shot on goal. Henninger made herself big to make the stop, but the rebound fell to Lindsi Cutshall right in front of the goal. Henninger recovered to get a hand on Cutshall’s shot, but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
The Dash pushed SBFC on the break offensively in the first half, relying on Kealia Ohai’s speed to get behind the defense. The rookie led the break in the 34th minute, feeding Nina Burger with a pass 20 yards from goal. The Austrian forward let loose a shot on goal that Jillian Loyden could only parry to the side. Tiffany McCarty raced to the loose ball but pushed her shot on the open net just wide.
Henninger made two more big stops in the minutes leading up to halftime. Ocampo played a touch pass into the box for Maya Hayes, who unleashed a shot from 10 yards out, but Henninger again stepped off her line to cut down the angle and saved the shot without giving up a rebound. She was called into action again a minute later when Cami Levin let loose a half-volley attempt from just outside the box. Henninger used all of her 5-foot-6 frame to dive to her right and palm the shot around the post.
Ohai came close to equalizing just before the break as she wiggled free of her defender inside the penalty area. She worked just enough space to get a quick shot away on frame, but it appeared that Loyden got the slightest of touches and the ball hit off the inside of the goalpost to keep Sky Blues advantage at one.
Dash captain Erin McLeod took over goalkeeping duties in the second half for the Dash, though her 45 minutes were much less involved than Henninger’s. Sky Blue continued to mount pressure with nine shots in the half, but none of them forced a save from the Canadian international. Schmidt had the closest attempt, a rocket from more than 20 yards out that clattered off the post in the 70th minute.
The Dash couldn’t test Loyden much the second half either as they pushed to end their season on a positive note, mustering two shots on goal but neither seriously testing Loyden. Stephanie Ochs nearly produced a moment of magic in the 90th minute with a ball bouncing just outside of the box, but her shot didn’t dip until already cleared over the crossbar.
Sky Blue FC (9-8-7, 34 points) vs. Houston Dash (5-16-3, 18 points)
NWSL regular season
August 20, 2014 — Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey
Sky Blue: Lindsi Cutshall 3 (unassisted) 18
Houston Dash: Bianca Henninger (Erin McLeod 46); Arianna Romero, Marissa Diggs, Whitney Engen ©, Stephanie Ochs; Kaylyn Kyle, Kika Toulouse, Kelly McFarlane; Kealia Ohai, Nina Burger (Melissa Henderson 46), Tiffany McCarty
Substitutes Not Used: None.
Sky Blue FC: Jillian Loyden; CoCo Goodson, Cami Levin, Caitlin Foord, Lindsi Cutshall; Katy Freels, Ashley Nick, Sophie Schmidt; Monica Ocampo (Jonelle Filigno 45+3), Kelley O’Hara (Kendall Johnson 28), Maya Hayes (Maddie Thompson 84)
Substitutes Not Used: Brittany Cameron, Nanase Kiryu, Meg Morris, Nikki Stanton
SBFC: Ashley Nick (caution) 72
HOU: Rafaelle Souza (caution) 85
Referee: Bernhard Hosu
Assistant Referees: Albert Calise, Mark Boyko
Fourth Official: Neil Barbulescu