Dash 1, Sky Blue 0

5 kicks from Houston Dash at Sky Blue FC

Rachel Daly (center) and the Houston Dash picked up their first win of the season in a 1-0 win at Sky Blue FC. (Credit: ISI Photos)

The Houston Dash came away with a 1-0 win in New Jersey to pick up their first win of the season. Midfielder Sofia Huerta scored the game's lone goal in the 83rd minute, her first of the year.

Here are five observations from the win:

Highlights: Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash | April 20, 2019 www.youtube.com

1) First win for Clarkson

One week after opening the season with a 1-1 draw at home, the Dash came out and responded with a win on the road. The result gives them a winning record to start the season but also the first W under first year Head Coach James Clarkson.

The win is great to put a bow on a new season and reinforce belief that the Dash may finally be trending upwards compared to previous years. The work the team put in should be commended because it's a win that stemmed from persistence. Sky Blue wasn't exactly a great test so the next match against North Carolina will be a better indicator of the level the Dash are currently performing at.

2) Huerta nets her first of 2019

Sofia Huerta deserves as much praise over the result because it was her goal that broke the deadlock. The Dash had plenty of opportunities to get on the board but none of the forwards could break through the Sky Blue defense.

[LISTEN: 4/23 Sofia Huerta joins Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis]

Huerta was able to power a shot home in the 83rd minute, albeit deflected, to secure the game-winner. Responsible for five goals and four assists after joining the club in mid-2018, Huerta is a key piece of the Dash attack.

3) Second match, second pk conceded

One of the negatives to pull from this match is the penalty kick conceded by the defense, the second pk in as many weeks. This week it happened in the 26th minute rather than at the ending moments of the game.

Defender Amber Brooks, as she did the previous week, did her best to prolong the kick and stretch time. The in-game mind games may have done the trick as two-time FIFA Women's Player of the Year Carli Lloyd sent her attempt wide and missed. Going forward, however, the Dash will want to make it a habit not to concede a penalty a week.

4) Kristie Mewis returns from ACL tear

Kristie Mewis returns to game action 10 months after ACL injury www.youtube.com

Kristie Mewis was one of the team's better players to start last season but was sidelined in late May after suffering an ACL tear. After 10 months of rehab, she picked up her first minutes on the field by entering Saturday's match in the 62nd minute.

"We still have so much to work on," said Mewis after the win. A versatile player who can play in defence and midfield, Mewis' return not only adds depth but a reliable player - whether Clarkson chooses to incorporate her into the starting XI or slowly ease her in with more substitute appearances.

5) Nairn passes 10,000 minutes

Midfielder Christine Nairn has played in the league since its founding in 2013 and she surpassed the 10,000 mark in minutes played on Saturday - the fifth player to reach that milestone (H/T @KeeperNotes). She was acquired by the Dash in the offseason in a trade with Orlando Pride.

Nairn's experience speaks for itself and her addition to the club is another reason to the optimism that the team may finally reach the NWSL playoffs.

Dash player of the game: Sofia Huerta

Next up:

Sunday, April 28th vs. North Carolina Courage (5:00 p.m. CT, YahooSports.com)

Courtesy of Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo fell back to second-to-last place in the Western Conference after a 2-1 loss against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night at BC Place. Mauro Manotas struck for the second consecutive match but it would not be enough as fellow Colombian Fredy Montero notched a 90th minute winner for the Caps.

Here are five observations from the match:

1) A winnable game

Despite Whitecaps FC coming into this match two weeks removed from their last MLS match, the Dynamo were looking at a possibility of picking up their first three points ever in Vancouver. The Canadians simply haven't looked great and that's a big reason why they are still the last place team in the West.

Houston had plenty of opportunities early on with Tommy McNamara missing a golden chance in just the fourth minute of play. The team ended up out-shooting the Whitecaps 18-6 throughout the entire match but they lacked the quality to punish in the final third.

For a team that has been poor on the road (Dynamo have a combined 5 away wins since 2017), this was a great opportunity to pick up a road win.

2) Hard done by a handball

The definition of a handball changed in an update to the Laws of the Game earlier this year. As a result, referees have interpreted the rule to the letter of the law because the evaluation of a "deliberate" handball has been removed.

In this case, the referee awards the penalty even after going to the video review booth. The Dynamo were on the other side of a VAR decision on Wednesday when a Minnesota goal was annulled after video review.

Ultimately, the Dynamo could've avoided the entire controversy by putting their chances away and putting this match out of reach.

3) Manotas scores again

There's not much more that can be said about Dynamo leading scorer Mauro Manotas. Once again, he was well positioned to jump on an opportunistic chance to score. The improvement to his game can only come as he evolves into a scorer that can create his own chances more consistently. Other than that, he's been one of the Dynamo's top players for the past few years.

4) Late goal defeat

Fredy Montero, one of the better scorers in the history of the league, was on a goal drought since June. He ended that drought with a 90th minute winner, taking advantage of a Jose Bizama who put out his worst performance in a Dynamo jersey.

Late goal defeats are probably up there with anything else you'd describe Dynamo play in this decade. Add another to the list.

5) Arnaud's progression continues to be slow

It was always going to be a though ask for Davy Arnaud to provide a complete 180-degree change and make a charge for the playoffs. In his five games in charge, Arnaud has reinvigorated the locker room with a bit of confidence. He has also taken more of a safety net approach and not rushing to make drastic changes in his lineups and during matches.

Dynamo player of the game: Maynor Figueroa

Figueroa's strike from created the clearest opportunity for the Dynamo. It is that type of initiative that get teams back into this type of match. The Honduran national team captain has injected an impact of leadership and is fearless when he is on the field. Signed in the offseason for an annual salary of $70,250.00, Figueroa has been every bit worth every penny and, undeniably, a steal.

Next match:

Saturday, September 21 vs. Orlando City SC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57)

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