The Houston Dash held on against a constant barrage from Portland Thorns FC for a 1-0 win at Providence Park on Saturday night.
Jessica McDonald scored against her former team and Bianca Henninger made eight saves in the shutout effort.
The Dash took the lead in the 24th minute as Kealia Ohai got a step on her defender on the left flank and put a cross into the box. McDonald, who led the Thorns in scoring last season with 11 goals, cut inside her defender at the near post and headed a shot past Michelle Betos.
Just prior to McDonald’s goal, Henninger came up with a pair of key saves to keep the teams level. First, the Dash keeper made a point-blank reaction save as Sarah Jackson got on the end of a cross from Ayo in the 23rd minute. The ball was only partially cleared, however, and was switched to the left side to Kendall Johnson. Johsnon spun into space and unleashed a low shot, but Henninger dove to her left to get a hand on the attempt.
The field tipped in favor of Portland for the majority of the remainder of the match as the home side pushed for an equalizer, but Henninger and the Dash defense held strong under the waves of pressure.
Thorns FC had a penalty shout at the close of the first half as Allie Long and Toni Pressley went shoulder-to-shoulder towards the endline. Pressley lunged in for a slide tackle inside the box and poked the ball away. Both players went down in the challenge, but referee Matthew Kreitzer only pointed to the corner flag for a corner kick.
Henninger came up with another diving save just before the hour mark. Mana Shim ran free in the box and connected with a cross from Sinead Farrelly that was headed for the near post before Henninger plucked it out of the air at full stretch.
The Dash were able to relieve some of the pressure as the game wore on and the Thorns pushed more numbers forward. Ohai and Ella Masar combined for two late chances to stretch the lead and put the match away. In the 79th minute, Masar intercepted a pass in the attacking half that put Ohai on goal with a two-on-one situation, but Ohai’s touch was long and Betos was able to clean up the situation. Four minutes later, Ohai again beat a defender on the left side and slide a pass across the face of goal. Masar charged into the box, but the ball was just behind her and clipped off her back heel.
The win was the first for the Dash since an opening day 2-0 victory against the Washington Spirit on April 10, snapping a four game winless streak. Houston travels to New Jersey next Sunday to face Sky Blue FC, while the Thorns take to the road against the Washington Spirit on Saturday.
Houston Dash (4-5-4, 16 points) at Portland Thorns FC (4-4-5, 17 points)
NWSL regular season
May 23, 2015 — Providence Park, Portland, OR
Houston Dash: Jessica McDonald 4 (Kealia Ohai 2) 24
Houston Dash: Bianca Henninger; Jen LaPonte, Niki Cross, Toni Pressley, Ella Masar © (Tiffany McCarty 90+2); Cami Privett (Jordan Jackson 89), Brittany Bock, Rachael Axon; Melissa Henderson (Ellie Brush 76), Jessica McDonald, Kealia Ohai
Substitutes Not Used: Megan Kinneman, Carleigh Williams
TOTAL SHOTS: 4 (Jessica McDonald 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Jessica McDonald, Brittany Bock 1); FOULS: 6 (Six players with 1); OFFSIDES: 4 (Kealia Ohai 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Melissa Henderson 3); SAVES: 8 (Bianca Henninger 8)
Portland Thorns FC: Michelle Betos; Emily Menges, Kat Williamson ©, Alyssa Kleiner; Ayo (Taylor Comeau 76), Sinead Farrelly, McCall Zerboni, Kendall Johnson, Allie Long, Mana Shim; Sarah Jackson (Kelsey Haycook 64)
Substitutes Not Used: Emily Kruger, Sarah Robbins, Kate Bennett, Courtney Niemiec, Hanna Terry
TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Ayo 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Kendall Johnson 3); FOULS: 12 (Ayo 4); OFFSIDES: 2 (Sarah Jackson 2); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Allie Long 6); SAVES: 1 (Michelle Betos 1)
HOU: Toni Pressley (caution) 86
Referee: Matthew Kreitzer
Assistant Referees: Samantha Moos, Jason Perlewitz
Fourth Official: Lucas Brooks