Suffering their first loss in six games and with injuries keeping some of their best out, the Houston Dash turned to the cavalry to stop the bleeding on the road in Boston.
Enter Sarah Hagen.
In her third start of the season, she led the front line and pocketed two goals on the way to the Dash beating the Breakers 3-1 for their seventh victory of the season.
"Going into our pregame meeting, finding out I was going to be in the starting lineup – it felt great," Hagen, who her coach and teammate affectionately call Apple for her Appleton, Wisc. roots, said. "Knowing that they have the confidence in me really helped me from the first minute of going on. Obviously getting that goal in the first half really helped my confidence and just getting some minutes from the start and not coming off the bench, it is a totally different mentality, and I'm just happy that we could get the win on the road."
Hagen has played the role of reserve this season with the injured Carli Lloyd the preferred option up top when available. Wednesday, it was Hagen's turn, however, and she made the most of it.
"The Apple decision came after a few good weeks of training," said head coach Omar Morales. "She was scoring some goals, and we just wanted to give her a chance to show Boston a little bit of a different look with a real [number] nine."
Her first came from being in the right place at the right time when English international Rachel Daly headed down a ball from Janine Beckie before clattering into Breakers goalkeeper Abby Smith. Hagen calmly knocked it home for the first of the night. Her second was about positioning as well, running in to bang home a rebound for her second of the night and year.
Her best take came in the 78th minute on a strike from distance that clanged off the crossbar. Janine Beckie added the third on a good night for the Dash attack.
"Yeah, it was great. It's hard for players that haven't gone in a lot, it's hard for them mentally, but those girls came in, and they looked so sharp," said Nichelle Prince. "They helped the team so much. Apple getting two goals, I'm so happy for her. She stayed ready for all of these weeks, and it really showed. We really needed her today, and she came up big for us."