Nigel Brooks

Houston Dash defender Meghan Klingenberg anxious to make her debut against Western New York

Meghan Klingenberg and her Houston Dash teammates turned up at Sky Blue FC on Wednesday night ready to play. And they did—just not soccer.

Klingenberg expected to make her long-awaited Dash debut in New Jersey but the weather had other ideas. And so the Dash players passed the time during the long delay with an impromptu game of baseball at Yurcak Field.

Despite the unexpected chance to admire Ella Masar’s pitching and Becky Edwards’ bat speed, Klingenberg would have loved to have stepped on the field as a Dash player for the first time. It’s a full month since the USWNT defender had her first training session with the team after her move from Swedish club Tyresö FF. And it’s six months since she knew she’d be moving to Texas this summer after the Dash selected her in the Expansion Draft.

But injury, national team call-ups and now lightning have frustrated her hopes. Still, her next opportunity to pull on the orange jersey is coming right up. The 25-year-old is expected to make her Dash debut at home on Saturday as Houston host the Western New York Flash in a vital encounter at BBVA Compass Stadium (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS).

“I honestly believe that maybe the world’s conspiring against my Houston Dash debut!” the Pittsburgh native told HoustonDashSoccer.com. “It’ll hopefully come on Saturday against a good opponent in our home town, that could be a really special experience. I’m just looking forward, trying not to dwell on what I can’t control and just looking forward to playing for the team.

“I think we just need to look forward to Saturday, grab those points, grab all the points we possibly can to try and make the playoffs.”

Originally set for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff, the match was eventually postponed about four hours later as a stubborn storm lashed the region and lightning blazed through the sky around Piscataway, about 35 miles southwest of New York City. Conditions recalled the Dash’s game against the Chicago Red Stars in May, which was delayed for three hours. While the weather eased off on that occasion and the match was completed, this time the teams and fans were not so lucky and the clash with Sky Blue will have to be rearranged for later in the year.

“Twice in the same season. Usually that happens once in a blue moon and you forget about it,” head coach Randy Waldrum told HoustonDashSoccer.com soon after the fixture was called off. With the Dash returning to Houston to prepare for Saturday’s important match, there was no possibility of playing on Thursday.

“It’s just one of those things that in light of what we heard about this week up in Columbus, with a fan getting struck by lightning, you can’t play with that. As much as we wanted to get the game in, the projection was that it was going to stay around tonight to anywhere between 1 and 4 a.m., so we couldn’t wait that long,” said Waldrum.

“The points are still going to be there to be taken at some point in the season, whether it’s in two or three weeks from now, or whether it’s in August, whenever it can be fitted in, we’re hopeful that those points are still going to be valuable to us.”

The wait gave the Dash players the chance to watch events elsewhere, as bottom club the Boston Breakers tied 3-3 with the Washington Spirit and runaway leaders Seattle Reign FC beat the Flash 2-1. It means the Flash currently occupy the fourth and final playoff place in the NWSL standings on 20 points, seven ahead of Houston. But the Dash have beaten the Flash twice already this season and have two games in hand on Saturday’s opponents. So a run of wins, starting at BBVA Compass Stadium this weekend, can bridge that gap.

Looking on the sunny side despite Wednesday’s cloudy skies, Waldrum hopes that the postponement means his players will be fresher for Saturday’s crucial encounter. Though long-distance travel can be tiring, a three-match week has been reduced to two. But this will be Western New York’s third game in eight days.

“We’ll find out on Saturday but in some regards it could help us. It’s one of those weeks where we would have had three games in seven days. Even though we traveled, by not playing tonight, maybe it’ll keep us a little bit more fresh for what would have been that third game this Saturday. Then we have a week in-between games,” said Waldrum. 

He is optimistic that defender Osinachi Ohale will be available. She missed the trip to the Northeast because of illness. As for Saturday’s forecast? It’s favorable, so surely this will be Klingenberg’s moment at last.

“People really aren’t going to believe that she’s actually here and going to play for us!” said Waldrum. “It’s a hamstring injury, its a national team call up, it’s now a rain delay… Hopefully Saturday she’s going to get to make her debut so let’s spread the word, get the fans out and see if they can welcome her at home for her first game.”

Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.