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)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo Senior Vice President/General Manager Matt Jordan addressed questions from fans during the first hour of Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis on Tuesday night. Among the topics of conversation were potential player signings, concerns with player development and club operations.

The following are excerpts from the Q&A with callers to the program:

Potential Transfers

On why the Dynamo has not gone after a big name player that can fill BBVA Stadium

We're very open and we have had discussion with "big name players" ... For us, it's about getting the right players and I truly believe, through my experiences, you also have stars that grow within the league. We've seen that with our team with Alberth Elis, with Mauro Manotas - from my time in Montreal, we saw that with Ignacio Piatti. These weren't "big name stars" but they became "big name stars" so we look at all of it. We look at making our own stars, we look at some players that have been on the biggest stages and maybe a bit older but, for us, it's analyzing what's the right fit.

On the suggestion of a player like Mexico National Team Captain Andres Guardado

A lot of fans will say, "bring a big name, a Messi or Ronaldo" and that's not always realistic in the world of soccer but those are the types of profiles we do continue to look at along with making our own stars as well, which I think we've done a good job of with the two players I mentioned, who are stars in the city of Houston now.

On the reports of Cruz Azul's interest in Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas

We're getting interest in a lot of our young talented players. The two players that everyone talks about is Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis, there's also a handful of other players that we get inquiries of from abroad. A lot of the teams in the Mexican league follow our teams very closely and Cruz Azul did express interest in Mauro... [a potential transfer] has to make sense for the player, it has to make sense for the club

Player Development

On the investment in the Houston Dynamo Academy

With the support of our ownership group, over the last 18 months, have made significant investments in the academy. We hired a new academy director in Paul Holocher, we brought on what I believe are some of the brightest young coaches in the Unites States. We've really worked very hard to strengthen our partnerships and our strategic alliances here within the city of Houston, which I believe has really been a downfall of ours in the past.

On the possibility of having a locally-based USL team

We have. One thing I can tell you, we have our USL players, our academy players, our U23 players in and out with the first team all the time. With the Open Cup, we brought up several of our USL players. You'll see a couple of our USL players come up for our League's Cup game as well... of course, it's more ideal to have it next to our first team field but we're very proud of the partnership in the [Rio Grande] Valley.

Club Policies

On the Dynamo's scouting system for recruiting players for the first team...

We do have a scout in Europe that's paid by us, we have a scout in South America that's paid by us and I also have a full-time scout and analyst, here, that is in Houston working with us in our recruitment department.

What we do is we go through the annual scouting calendar, we prioritize what events we need to hit. Generally speaking, I only travel when we get to the point - myself or [Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera] or both of us together, a lot of time we'll travel together in the offseason. We only really travel when we get to [final stages of a transfer].

We use our regional contacts...What I really focus on is having one key contact in each country and, a lot of times, we go after the player, it's not that the player is presented to us by the agent. [Recent signing Jose Bizama] is a prime example, we went after Bizama and we approached the club through our process. Now, there's times where a player is presented to us as well, but more often then not we utilize those regional contacts in each country. There's a lot of times, with many of our players, we've identified them or we've gone after them when they're, maybe, not for sale and that's when the grinding starts to take place for the negotiation.

On the club hosting a town hall meeting with supporters

In this moment, I can't speak for ownership but I have no problem being in any setting and fielding questions about the team for the fans.

---

The entire conversation is available on the July 16, 2019 episode of the podcast, which can be heard on iTunes, Google Podcasts and www.podcastarena.com/soccermatters/

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