Houston Dash show potential for greatness
Dash set NWSL attendance record in playoff loss
HOUSTON – Almost an hour after the greatest season in Houston Dash history ended, Sophie Schmidt was still on the field at PNC Stadium. Despite the devastating playoff loss Sunday afternoon, she had a smile on her face while taking selfies and giving autographs.
Some of her teammates were in their sports bras after taking off their jerseys to sign them and give them to little girls in the stands. Long after the final whistle Sunday evening, hundreds of fans waited along the front row of the stadium. Most of them were young girls, but there were plenty of boys and adults too.
History will show that the Dash lost its first National Women’s Soccer League playoff game. It was an agonizing 2-1 loss against the Kansas City Current. In the big picture, though, the Dash, women’s soccer and Houston’s soccer community won Sunday.
Bright future for Houston Dash
The score and the loss weren’t as significant as what the Dash created this year. For the first time since its inaugural 2014 season, the Dash have momentum unlike anything the club had when women’s national team star Carli Lloyd played here.
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The Dash set a franchise attendance record with the second largest crowd to attend a women’s soccer match in Texas.
“Yeah I think it says a lot of what these players have achieved,” interim Dash coach Juan Carlos Amorós said. “You know football is only one way now. If we do the right things next year, we want to create and ignite this passion into our fans like today having more than 20,000, like almost double the record that we had before and how the people were behind, pushing the team, comments at the end, everyone clapping for the players.”
The potential for women’s soccer in Houston was on the full display on the pitch and in the stands. The Dash drew a crowd of 21,284, the largest crowd in NWSL history up to that point.
The previous NWSL record crowd was 21,144 for the 2018 NWSL final. The Dash easily broke the club attendance record of 13,025, which was set on July 12, 2015.
The largest crowd for a women’s soccer match in Texas was 23,176 for a match at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas between the U.S. and Mexican women’s national team in 2003. Unlike that match, there were no U.S. national team superstars to anchor the marquee Sunday at PNC Stadium.
“Everyone is proud of the performance,” Amorós said. “Obviously you always want to win, but there’s more than that in football. I’m just sad that we couldn’t give them the win but extremely proud of what the players have done to get people in and hopefully to come back on a regular basis.
“Next season, these players deserve it, this club deserves it, and the city of Houston deserves a team like the Dash.”
Early and late goals down Dash
Mexican national team star Maria Sanchez and Co. dominated from about the sixth minute until the 98th minute. The Dash outshot the Current 20-6. Unfortunately for the Dash, the Current scored the fastest goal in NWSL postseason history and the latest goal in league history.
The Current, which advanced to the NWSL semifinals to play the OL Reign on Oct. 23, took an early lead after Katie Naughton was called for tripping Kristen Hamilton just inside the box. Lo’eau LaBonta then slotted the penalty kick into the top right corner to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.
Schmidt tied the score at 1 in the 21st minute. Sanchez curled a beautiful corner kick that Current goalkeeper AD Franch parried toward the right corner of the 18-yard box. Schmidt then buried a volley into the back of the net at the near post.
Strong performance by Maria Sanchez
The Dash had numerous menacing chances. Sanchez hit the near post once and forced Franch to make a sensational save at the far post in the second half. Michelle Alozie had a one-on-one with the keeper in stoppage time with a teammate open in the middle of the penalty box. She couldn’t convert. French came off her line and made the save.
The Dash had 14 shots on goal in the second half. The Current weren’t as forgiving. Kate Del Fava scored in the 10th minute of stoppage time to give Kansas City the lead for good at the 99:32 mark.
“Yeah, I mean, huge shout out to Houston fans for coming out big tonight,” Schmidt said. “That was incredible. You just get goosebumps when you walk out of that tunnel and you got your kid walking with you, everyone’s screaming (and) got the music going.
“It was something very special to see that stadium, so many (fans) in those seats. It’s something we don’t see very often. It was pretty incredible to see people get behind us for the playoff run. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the job done for them, give them more to celebrate.”
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