Houston is not that bad.
Yes, the Dash lost 5-1 to Seattle, which lost 3-0 to Boston. It’s an unpredictable league. If you want predictability, watch the Celtic men or Lyon’s women demolish their domestic leagues.
– Kealia Ohai was a monster. Her goal, which Washington defender Estelle Johnson simply called “a great play by a great player,” wasn’t even her best play of the game. She was a constant threat down the left wing and put the “track” in “tracking back.” She’s a blur at top speed, even on a hot night in the D.C. exurbs. “It’s a lot of running, but I think that’s my strength,” she said in an early nomination for Understatement of the Week. And she likely would’ve contributed to another goal or two if not for …
– Estelle Johnson, who is having a breakout season at age 28. She managed to get forward and spark the Spirit’s second-half attack even while racing back to deal with the consistent threat of Ohai. She says she’s working on getting forward — “it’s something new that I’m learning” — which is certainly easier when the Spirit abandon the three-back system and go with four. “I’m just constantly a student of the game. I think my mentality from last year to this year is different — more positive and more confident.”
“She’s awesome,” Ohai said.
– Ohai and Rachel Daly were unable to offer any sort of explanation for their goal celebration, in which Daly winds up and tosses an imaginary softball and Ohai hits it out of the park. They simply started doing it out of the blue in preseason, and it stuck. Daly is from England and says she has never played softball. Go figure.
– The Spirit played timidly in the first half. Johnson said it’s something they need to address. (I saw a youth soccer team play timidly and lose 6-0 earlier today on the first part of my Complete Loop Around The Beltway, so it could’ve been worse.)
– Did a ref assessor visit the ref at halftime? The first half featured a contest in which Dash players tried to see who could commit the most obvious foul on Francisca Ordega. In the second half, Ordega drew a soft foul early on, and the ref cracked down on everything.
– Will the Spirit finish last? I was not one of the people who picked them last in preseason. Like most people who’ve watched the team, I figured they’d be somewhere around seventh or eighth.
You could look at it this way — even without Joanna Lohman, Kristie Mewis, Katie Stengel, Cheyna Williams, Cali Farquharson, Kelsey Wys and Caprice Dydasco, and with only 16 players dressed, the Spirit were still in this game until the final whistle. But they’re not getting Lohman back, and Wys would only displace the in-form Stephanie Labbe.
The attacking players pushed into the positions Mewis, Williams, Stengel and Farquharson have left open simply haven’t been up to the task. Through three games, the Spirit have had seven shots on goal and one goal.
Mewis might be back next week. But the player they really need is Williams, who seemed poised for that second-year breakthrough so many NWSL players have.
– Will Houston be a factor? Too soon to tell. But their ball movement was sharp. They’re fast and strong. And they’re due to end the season with Carli Lloyd, which could either put them into the playoff mix or ruin what appears to be solid team chemistry.