Preview: Sky Blue FC v. Houston Dash

Photo Credit: Sky Blue FC

By MC Bousquette
Staff Writer

Sky Blue FC have a tough road match ahead of them as they take on the Houston Dash.

Coming off a disappointing home loss against the Western New York Flash, Sky Blue (3-7-5) looks to keep their playoff hopes alive. Prior to last weekend’s loss, Sky Blue was on a three-game undefeated run. Now they find themselves at a disadvantage as they face a tough away match against the Dash (5-5-5), who are currently occupying a playoff spot.

The Competition:

The Dash are a force to be reckoned with. The attack is fronted by none other than midfielder and NWSL Player of the Month Carli Lloyd, who has scored three goals since returning from the World Cup. Rising star Kealia Ohai is the Dash’s potent striker, and is likely to join Lloyd and fellow gutsy forward Jessica McDonald in giving the Sky Blue defense a run for their money.

Offensive strength aside, the Dash’s defense was shaken by the Washington Spirit last week, losing 3-1 as the Spirit’s Crystal Dunn recorded a hat trick. The Dash have lost Niki Cross, who retired after the last weekend’s matchup, but still have several strongholds in the USWNT’s Meghan Klingenberg, Ella Masar, and Canadian WNT goakeeper Erin McLeod. One cannot go without mentioning the importance of Morgan Brian, who contributed heavily to the USWNT’s World Cup turn around when she jumped in at defensive midfielder. The Dash have a solid lineup, and will deeply challenge Sky Blue.

Sky Blue:

Sky Blue looked as if they were on a streak, but stumbled against the Flash. Although the scoreline was not in Sky Blue’s favor, there wasn’t one particular offensive or defensive weakness that resulted in the loss. As Coach Jim Gabarra shared on the upcoming match, “We are playing a Dash team that is in good form, so we will have to continue playing at the level we have been over the past few games. However, we must do a better job in the final third and be more clinical in our finishing.”

The squad will rely on its attacking depth to challenge the Dash’s defense. Sky Blue has a wealth of offensive strength in Sam KerrKelley O’Hara, Katy Freels, and Nadia Nadim, who are almost sure to start. Taylor Lytle and Caitlin Filigno are second half players, but are certainly not a reduction in attacking quality. The tools are all present for an absolute offensive bombardment- Sky Blue just needs to finish chances.

The back line will be tested heavily – perhaps the most so since the national team players returned. Brittany Cameron must continue to be on top of her game, while Caitlin Foord and Christie Rampone will again be relied upon to hold the back line together. The match is winnable for Sky Blue, but it’s not going to be an easy battle.

The Takeaway:

Both sides need these three points, and for different reasons. The Dash are trying to cling to the fourth NWSL playoff spot in an increasingly heated race, while Sky Blue are trying to make their way up from the almost-bottom of the table.

Gabarra summarized Sky Blue’s approach to the match-up; “Needless to say, this a must-win game for us. We had a good performance when we went down to Houston last season, and we will need to replicate that on Friday night.

Sky Blue FC take on the Houston Dash at 8:30pm EST this Saturday, August 8th, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas (Fox Sports Go).