Dash’s arrow pointing up at halfway point

 

The Houston Dash begin play in the second half of their regular season tonight, and the team is looking to build on its last three games, from which they took seven out of a possible nine points.

Those three matches have been the Dash’s best of the season, coinciding with the return of the world’s best player, Carli Lloyd, to the side. Lloyd’s quality on the ball has been something Houston sorely lacked in the first nine games of the season.

The Dash have the worst goal differential in the league at -9 despite sitting in seventh place, with the top four teams making the playoffs. A lot of this has to do with an offense that hasn’t finished well so far.

Houston is second in the league in shots with 139 and third in shots on goal with 67. However, the Dash have mustered only 12 goals through 12 games, third worst in the league. On top of that, their 21 goals allowed are more than all but one team have scored so far in 2017. Put it together and you have a team that has struggled to score and keep teams from scoring—that won’t win you many games.

Part of the problem has been the aggressive nature of the offense. Houston leads the NWSL in offsides calls with 50, and throwing numbers forward as the team tends to do when trailing leaves the defense vulnerable to counterattacks.

Despite the recent success, the Dash are just two points out of last place in the NWSL. After winning two of their first three games, Houston lost six in a row before defeating the Orlando Pride 2-0 at home June 24, nearly two months after their prior victory.

Five of the team’s last 12 games are against Boston, Kansas City and Washington, the three teams below Houston in the NWSL standings, providing opportunities for relatively easy points. In addition, seven of the second half games are at the friendly confines of BBVA Compass Stadium, although three of the Dash’s four victories on the season have come on the road.

With three matches remaining against the Portland Thorns (including tonight at 7:30 p.m.) and two against the North Carolina Courage, there are still plenty of quality opponents on the schedule. Houston remains just six points out of playoff position, and opportunities to rise in the standings will present themselves should Lloyd and Co. continue their form.

The loss of captain Kealia Ohai to a torn ACL hurts. Ohai found her groove in the league in 2016 and even capped for the United States national team. Add on the injury to midfield fulcrum and USWNT international Morgan Brian and the midfield looks alarmingly thin. Enter Lloyd, returning from overseas in the nick of time.

Although Lloyd has just one goal in four games back with the Dash, she has certainly been active, taking 14 shots and putting six on target. The USWNT captain must carry the team for the remainder of the season for Houston to have any playoff hopes.

She is certainly up to the task, having proved just two summers ago how much talent she possesses. Lest we forget, Lloyd carried the USWNT’s offense to a World Cup title in 2015.

Carli Lloyd is the biggest reason the Houston Dash’s season is beginning to look up again following a disappointing first half to the NWSL season. She and the Dash will take on the Portland Thorns tonight at 7:30 p.m. at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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