Dash 1, NC 4

5 kicks from Houston Dash vs. North Carolina Courage

Kealia Ohai returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous game due to injury. Photo by Wilf Thorne/ISIPhotos.com

After starting their season with a win and a draw, the Dash picked up their first loss in a 1-4 humbling from the defending NWSL Champion North Carolina Courage. Houston's only goal came in the 86th minute but served only to lessen the margin of defeat from 0-4.

Here are five observations from Sunday's match:

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dash vs. North Carolina Courage | April 28, 2019 www.youtube.com

1. Reality check

This match was the best test the team could have this early in the schedule and one that show how far along this Dash roster is under first-year Head Coach James Clarkson. North Carolina was the much more polished side and had more of the ball throughout the game.

The loss itself wasn't a surprise, nor was it automatically expected, but the way in which the Dash was dominated as the second half wore on (Dash only down 0-1 at the half) showed the gap between the two teams. Crystal Dunn's goal in the 60th minute, NC's second, was pure talent and one to be applauded but the rest of the goals were off defensive mistakes.

In order to reach the better teams in the league, or at least compete for the entire game, they will need to show more discipline in their team game. It's not panic mode being only three matches into the season, but it is a warning to close the gap as soon as possible.

2. Another penalty conceded

For the third consecutive game, the Dash conceded a penalty kick to the opposing team. Luckily, nothing came of it as Jane Campbell easily stopped Lynn Williams attempt on Sunday. Carli Lloyd's attempt the previous week was kicked wide and Jodie Taylor's shot in the first match was another low shot blocked by Campbell.

Here's the thing, a penalty should be an automatic goal for the player making the attempt. If missed, that says more about the penalty kick taker, particularly their mental strength, than it does about the goalkeeper.

It's not a factor now but if those kicks are converted successfully, the Dash would be looking at one point in three games to start the year. Having luck is nice but sometimes luck runs out and the Dash need to stop putting themselves in these situations.

3. Daly scores

One of the positives from Sunday was seeing Rachel Daly open her scoring account. The English forward, who has finished as the club's top scorer the past two seasons, had been denied in the earlier matches but finally found the back of the net with a curling stunner.

The benefit of that goal is the confidence that comes with it. The Dash need to find some consistency scoring to get some points in their immediate future.

Daly may be heading to the FIFA Women's World Cup this summer as part of the England squad so she may miss some matches with the Dash. For that reason, it benefits both sides to see her in top form as soon as possible.

4. Ohai back in attack

Kealia Ohai missed last week's road trip because of injury and returned to the starting XI this last weekend. Her performance will arguably be reflected in the Dash's success this year, especially with Daly's potential absence as well as other international players who may be heading to the Women's World Cup like forward Nichelle Prince.

Ohai's best season in attack was 11 goals back in the 2016 season. She has struggled to find that form again after an ACL injury that sidelined her in 2017 and saw her return last season.

Ohai naturally looks a distance away from the danger she presented in her best year. Playing time shouldn't be a problem for her this season and Dash fans will hope that time can get her back to finding her goal soon.

5. Right back rotation

The most notable change to be taken from the three matches so far has been at the right back spot. Taylor Comeau started in the opener, she was replaced by Lindsay Agnew in week two and this weekend's choice was Satara Murray.

Murray had some trial by fire with her NWSL debut coming against the defending champs. She shared part of the blame on some of the goals and was also the player that conceded the penalty kick early in the first half.

Seeing her struggle in her first game was probably expected but it will be interesting to see if the manager continues to place the trust in her to keep her in the XI or if he will switch consistency at that position for the fourth consecutive week.

Dash player of the game: Rachel Daly

Next up:

Sunday, May 5 vs. Orlando Pride (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]

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