The Houston Dash spent most of Saturday and part of Sunday with frustrating delays. When they finally got to play Sunday night, the Chicago Red Stars extended their frustrations with a 1-0 defeat.
Delays on the Houston end and in connections meant it took the Dash nearly 12 hours to travel to Chicago on Saturday. Pre-match lightning resulted in another 3 hour delay Sunday night, leaving the Dash to no doubt ponder whether a higher power had it in for them.
When play finally did commence, the Dash looked ragged and out-of-sorts. Passing was sloppy, the defense looked somewhat disorganized and set piece defending was generally poor in the 1st half.
The Dash had a makeshift back four for the second week in a row as suspension forced out Osinachi Ohale. A need for experience and polish following the 4 goals conceded to FC Kansas City last week meant Kaylyn Kyle got the start at center back. Despite being unable to practice with the back line this week due to national team duty, Kyle spent time at center back with Seattle last season and looked solid.
Newcomer Nina Burger got the start in her debut on the right wing but appeared to struggle early on with the pace of the game as well as the slickness of the wet turf following the weather delay.
The Dash struggled with stringing together enough passes to get forward in the 1st half while Chicago generated quality opportunities. Goalkeeper Biana Henninger, playing in place of an injured Erin McLeod, kept the Dash in the game on more than one occasion.
Henninger could not stop Jen Hoy’s goal in the 33rd minute, however, which put Chicago up 1-0. Ari Romero attempted to a cross into the box with her head, but only manage to nudge it into the path of Hoy who cut inside of Romero and chipped it over Henninger for the goal.
The Dash came out looking more organized in the 2nd half. A halftime substitution of Stephanie Ochs for Kika Toulouse resulted in Ella Masar dropping back into the midfield and Burger slotting over to center forward where she looked more comfortable. Jordan Jackson dropped to left back and brought a bit more poise and ball control to the back line.
Burger showed a flash of what the Dash hope to get out of her early in the 2nd half, splitting the defense with a nice run but was just not able to get a solid touch onto the through ball.
Over the course of the 2nd half the Dash demonstrated more of the fight that the fans had grown accustomed to seeing in the first three games of the season. Chicago did not back down, however, and soon the match devolved into a slug fest that was played largely in the midfield with neither team generating great scoring opportunities.
In the final 15 minutes, the Dash strung together enough passes to threaten goal a handful of times, including a late curling shot over the crossbar by substitute Tiffany McCarty. In the end, however, Chicago keeper Karina LeBlanc had little to do in recording a clean sheet.
The Dash return home for a mid-week re-match with Portland Thorns FC this Wednesday in what will be the first opportunity for fans to see Nina Burger in person. Start time is 7pm.