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)

ELIS INJURED IN COMEBACK WIN

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo's 2-1 win over D.C. United

Credit Trask Smith/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo withstood Wayne Rooney's D.C. United plus an injury to star player Alberth Elis on their way to their seventh win of the season. El Campo native Memo Rodriguez and off-season signing Thomas McNamara scored in the 67th and 68th minutes, respectively, to lead the club to a comeback victory.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) Call it a comeback

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United | May 18, 2019 youtu.be

Both the Dynamo and D.C. United were undefeated this season in matches where they took the lead first. Houston's record was 1-1-2 when giving up the first goal.

On Saturday night, they didn't need to rely on the advantage of opening up the scoreline. Wayne Rooney scored the match's first goal right after the start of the second half before the Dynamo turned on the pressure in attack.

Perhaps the most impressing part of the result was doing it without the wide threats of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto on the field. Instead it was their substitutes, coincidentally, that drove home the victory.

2) Winning without Elis

Alberth Elis took a headbutt to the side of his skull at the start of the match when he and D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum jumped to dispute a ball in the air. Both players were taken out to the sidelines to get checked, Birnbaum had his head taped after bleeding, and were eventually allowed to return.

It would be minutes later that Elis asked for his substitution, which came in the 11th minute, and was subsequently taken to the locker room for a further evaluation. Despite passing the MLS concussion protocol, the Honduran playmaker wasn't well enough to continue the match.

Elis has been the most influential player for the team this season and a win without him will be a confidence booster. The big question now will be how long the team will be without one their most important contributors.

3) Memo leads the way

An inspired Memo Rodriguez was key to the Dynamo overturning the deficit at home, helping the team avoid a three-match winless streak. The homegrown midfielder took the responsibility of providing a spark in attack by creating his own shooting opportunity.

His goal in the 67th minute injected energy into the crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium and into his team. The Dynamo quickly went for another score and got it just a minute later.

With five goals and two assists, Rodriguez is enjoying his best season for the club. He'll likely pass his career high for minutes played in one season during the first half of the following match - eight games sooner than what it took him to reach that mark last year.

4) A win for Maynor

Defender Maynor Figueroa missed Saturday's match due to his father's passing on Wednesday night. The Honduran defender was on the field for the Dynamo against Timbers FC when the news broke in his home country.

The club showed solidarity with the seven-year Premier League veteran by dedicating the match to him in their pregame team photo. Figueroa joined the team in the off-season after three years at rival FC Dallas and has appeared in the majority of the Dynamo starting lineups this year.

Alejandro Fuenmayor took Figueroa's place in Saturday's starting XI and is expected to continue until Figueroa's return. The Dynamo have two league games left before this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup, a tournament Figueroa is expected to feature in for Honduras.

5) Rooney draws crowd but no sellout

Manchester United and England National Team Legend Wayne Rooney was in town with D.C. United. His appearance, unfortunately for the Dynamo, did very little for the gate in comparison to the visits of other league draws like LA's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Several Manchester United jerseys were seen in what was announced to be a crowd of 15,811 attendees at the 22,000 capacity stadium. That number is only the third highest crowd seen this year after the opening match and the derby against FC Dallas.

The three-time World Cup veteran and former UEFA Champions League winner held up his end with a goal in the 46th minute and, despite the loss, has helped D.C. to a top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Still, hope is bleak if a player of his stature has that little effect on the overall Houston soccer market - if they even knew he was in town.

Dynamo player of the game: Memo Rodriguez

Next up:

Saturday, May 25 at Minnesota United FC (7:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57) [ESPN+ for U.S. non-Houston markets]

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome