Houston Chronicle Sunday
Coach laments offensive struggles
The Dash recorded another shutout and earned another point, but coach James Clarkson felt noticeably less positive about that this time around.
Houston played to a 0-0 draw against OL Reign FC late Friday night in Tacoma, Wash., marking the second time in as many NWSL Challenge Cup games the Dash nor their opponents put one in the back of the net.
Clarkson raved about the defense not allowing a goal in the opener against the Chicago Red Stars, but after Friday’s follow-up, he was left yearning for more from the attack.
“We kept a clean sheet so it’s a positive there, but going forward, especially in the second half, I don’t think we did enough,” Clarkson said. “We’ve got some work to do. The fact that we defend well keeps us in the game, but I felt there were three points there tonight for us to win. I’m very frustrated that we haven’t picked up all three points.”
Not winning those points puts the Dash in a vulnerable position heading into the final two games of the Challenge Cup’s group stage. They have two points from their first two games, but Portland has six points from its first two games.
The clubs are set to meet in the group stage finale May 2, but Portland could have the West Division clinched by then. The Thorns face OL Reign on Wednesday and can earn a spot in the championship game with a win. If they do, the Dash would go into their next game April 26 at Kansas City with nothing tangible to gain.
“Unfortunately, it’s out of our control now so we have to rely on other results to give us a chance,” Clarkson said. “Hopefully, they go our way and we can finish with two wins and give ourselves something to play for. If that doesn’t happen, we still have to approach it in a professional way and make sure that we finish strongly and do everything we can to win the last two games.”
In order to do that, Houston will have to find a way to score a goal. The addition of six starters who were away on international duty for the first two group stage games will help.
The attacking group that played Friday had its share of chances but lacked the quality to supply ultradangerous chances.
Among the close calls was a long dribble in the first half by forward Katie Stengel in which she went by and through four OL Reign players before losing her balance in the penalty area and hitting a shot at the goalkeeper.
Later in the first half, forward Bri Visalli found forward Veronica Latsko on a cross to the back post, but Latsko’s header went wide.
The Dash were outshot 11-8 overall and 4-3 in on-target shots.
Houston goalkeeper Lindsey Harris again started in place of U.S. Women’s National Team player Jane Campbell and made several saves. She was at her best in the 62nd minute when former Dash player Sofia Huerta came flying in from the other side to hit a sharp volley into the grass. Harris was there to scoop it up.
“She has been above and beyond what we expected from her,” Dash defender Hayley Hanson said of Harris. “She has really stepped up into this role. She’s amazing with holding it, getting us organized in the back. She’s excellent with her feet.”