The term "super sub" was coined for exactly the kind of performance Teresa Noyola produced for the Houston Dash last Sunday. The Mexico international was at the heart of the action as the Dash made history, even though she was on the field for less than 15 minutes.
Noyola came off the bench as a 76th minute substitute and scored twice against the Boston Breakers to earn the Dash their first-ever victory in the NWSL. The new franchise's first individual honor followed two days later when Noyola was voted league player of the week by the media.
On a day of firsts for the Dash, Ella Masar grabbed the team's opening NWSL goal in the second half, tying the score at 1-1. But Boston reclaimed the lead and looked set to see out the match until head coach Randy Waldrum made the inspired decision to summon Noyola and Rafaelle Souza from the sideline.
"It's really big, especially because we came from behind. Having lost our home opener against Portland we really wanted a win to get us going in the right direction. We all know we're capable of going far so it was really important," Noyola said this week at Houston Sports Park ahead of Sunday's trip to Seattle Reign FC.
"Two losses back-to-back, you start putting doubts into your mind. Even a point would have been great but three points was great to give us some confidence and self-belief going into the next game," the 24-year-old added.
Noyola's first goal was a precise strike from the edge of the area after a sharp run and pass from Souza. "It was a great play by Rafa and I kind of just hit it as hard as I could with the inside of my foot. I wasn't expecting to get that much power on it but it was a good finish. Credit to Rafa and the rest of my team for setting me up," she said.
Then the Brazilian was fouled inside the penalty area and Noyola coolly converted the spot kick to give the Dash a 3-2 win. "Sometimes those substitutions work and I think Teresa and Rafa certainly made me look good," said Waldrum. "[Teresa's] got those qualities that can unlock teams, she's so creative, and she did her job perfectly."
Waldrum was also delighted by the team's young players, especially in defense. "Really proud of the character that the kids showed. I didn't think we played particularly well to be honest with you, I thought we were a little better in our opening game, but the resiliency that we showed and the fight to come back twice was amazing so I was extremely, extremely proud of the way they performed," he said.
The away game in Seattle on Sunday (6 p.m. CT) will be the team's third match of the season, then the Dash are back at BBVA Compass Stadium on May 3. "[Seattle] are kind of the talk of the league right now, and then you've got the next home game with Kansas City which was one of the top teams in the league last year, so it was really important that we got up [to Boston] and got a win," Waldrum said.
Noyola played for Seattle last season before she was traded to FC Kansas City in July. The Mexico City-born former Stanford University stand-out was allocated to the Dash in January. She said she is still adjusting to her new city but has relatives here who are helping make the transition smoother.
Even before she arrived in Texas she had connections to Houston sporting royalty. She went to high school with Houston Rockets star Jeremy Lin and has trained with him in the past, while Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was a contemporary at Stanford. Luck attended Stratford High School in Houston and is the son of former Dynamo president Oliver Luck.
Noyola brings artistic flair and precise technique to the team: characteristics that are also required for her two main off-field interests. Not surprisingly for someone who grew up in California's Silicon Valley, she cites computer programming as a hobby, along with drumming.
"Those are my other two joys of life I guess you could say, I really love to play the drums and I used to when I was in high school, I'm trying to get back into it. And then computer programming is something I really enjoyed in college, I'm trying to get back into that as well," she said.
Perhaps a trip to the city where Microsoft's headquarters is located will prove inspirational. It should certainly be challenging from a soccer perspective, because the Reign top the early standings thanks to two wins from their first two games. Their roster includes USWNT stars Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe. Still, Noyola believes the Dash will head to the Pacific Northwest feeling seeking to play with ambition at this early time in the season when anything seems possible.
"It's important that we stick to our own gameplan, focus on ourselves and go out and attack the game. Even though they have some big-time players, every team at this stage is just kind of starting and so I think you have to go at every game with everything you have," she said.