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Houston battles for the playoffs

Kealia Ohai scoring has Houston in the playoff race
Kealia Ohai scoring has Houston in the playoff race
Lou Roesch

From the cool air of the conditioning room to the under a blistering mid-morning sun, the Houston Dash continued their preparation for Saturday afternoon’s “must win” match against the Chicago Red Stars. With a quest for a playoff berth still alive, this has been an inaugural season filled with magical moments and frustrating minutes.
Magical when veteran Ella Masar scored the first ever goal in franchise history against the Boston Breakers in the 50th minute of play and later scored the team’s first home goal in the 51st minute against the Chicago Red Stars on May 23. 2014.
Magical when Mexican international mid-fielder Teresa Noyola’s two goal performance including the game winning PK conversion in the 85th minute gave Houston its first franchise win.
Magical when rookie forward Kealia Ohai scored a second half brace for yet another come from behind win just two weeks ago in what head coach Randy Waldrum described as a “must win” game against Boston
Then came last Thursday night’s magical moment when rookie defender Marissa Diggs turned what looked to be another heartbreaking loss to the Washington Spirit into a 1-1 draw.
And it was that same Spirit team that created two of Houston’s most frustrating minutes this season scoring in the game’s final minute of stoppage time on May 26th to hand Houston a 3-2 loss and then on June 28th, the Spirit scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win over the home team at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Three games in which the Houston (5-10-2, 17 points) would have secured nine could’ve, should’ve had points and instead settled for one. Points that would have Waldrum’s team in the thick of the playoff race instead of trying to leapfrog through the standings over the final six games.
“Every point matters,” said Waldrum. “We need positive results from each match.”
Houston now faces a Chicago team that has inflicted its own frustrating losses on the Dash. First came a 1-0 loss on May 11th and the return game a 3-1 loss with the Red Stars scoring just three minutes after Houston had fought back to tie the game 1-1 at BBVA. Six more points by the wayside.
In Thursday’s final preparation before the team’s departure for Chicago, the frustrating moments were all but forgotten as the team relished in an active and focused training session. A session that illustrated how this Dash team has grown by leaps and bounds and intensity since that last trip to Chicago. It is a team confident in themselves and the task at hand.
“The growth of our young players has been rapid and very important for us,” continued Waldrum. “To see Jordan (Jackson), Kelly (McFarlane), Marissa Diggs, and Kealia (Ohai) now versus early March, they’ve come a long way. And don’t forget Ochs, McCarty, Osi and Ari are also very young. They have been a big part of building this foundation for the long run while keeping us competitive right away.”
Ohai, Houston’s first pick and the second overall in the 2014 NWSL College Draft has been the driving force behind the Dash offense in the second half of the season.
“My job is to put the ball in the net,” said the former Lady Tar Heel who likes the idea of being the go to person. “I struggled at the beginning. You can be playing so well playing the best you’ve ever played but if you’re not scoring you’re judged on that and that’s tough mentally. Every single game is so tough and so competitive. Every game is a battle.”
On Saturday afternoon in Chicago, Ohai and the Dash will face yet another battle and another opportunity to turn the minutes of another “must win” into a magical moment.

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