Preview: Sky Blue FC v Houston Dash

IMAGE, SKY BLUE FC

by CHRIS HENDERSON
NWSL Beatwriter

Sky Blue FC put their franchise-record six game win streak on the line against a revamped Houston Dash team in their home opener on Saturday at Yurcak Field.

Sky Blue’s organized defense coupled with a moment of Nadia Nadim magic made for a 1-0 victory over Kansas City last week. They open at Yurcak Field having not lost since July 6, 2014. In Kansas City, a defense led by goalkeeper Brittany Cameron and centerbacks Christie Rampone and rookie Kristin Grubka frustrated US player of the Year Lauren Holiday and the rest of FCKC’s stars. While the defense held, the attack offered little going forward, but Nadim’s electric strike was enough to see off the defending champions.

They welcome the Dash, who defeated the Washington Spirit 2-0 on goals by Carli Lloyd and Kealia Ohai. Lloyd and fellow US national team member rookie midfielder Morgan Brian were the Dash’s significant offseason acquisitions as the Houston side seeks better results in their second year in the league. Brian was the only player picked higher than Sky Blue’s Sarah Killion in the January’s college draft. Against the Spirit, Lloyd, Ohai and Brian dominated the center of the park and will look to do the same against Sky Blue.

When the two team met in August last year, Nadim scored a hat trick in a 3-1 Sky Blue victory.


 

Projected starting XI:

Sky Blue: Cameron, O’Hara, Rampone, Grubka, Levin, Cutshall, Killion, Morris, Hayes, Freels, Nadim

Dash: Henninger, Ochs, Masar, Klingenberg, Cross, Lloyd, Brian, Axon, Ohai, McDonald, Henderson

History:

All Time: 1 Sky Blue win, 1 Houston Dash win, 0 draws

at Yurcak Field: 1 Houston Dash win, 0 Sky Blue wins, 0 draws

Last Encounter: Houston Dash 1:3 Sky Blue FC (Hou: Burger, SB: Nadim (3))

Battle to Watch: O’Hara v. Klingenberg, the two leftbacks will not be lining up against each other, but they both in the conversation to start for the US national team this summer in Canada.

X-Factor: Attendance, The NWSL enjoyed decent crowds everywhere save Seattle for the opening slate of game last weekend with 6,000 in Houston, nearly 8,500 in Kansas City and the usual 13,000 plus in Portland. Sky Blue finished last in the league in 2014 with an average slightly above 1,600 fans. The permanent acquisition of Nadim led to feature stories in both the Times and the News and the team’s winning ways provide an opportunity for the franchise to garner more attention. Saturday will be the first test of their ability to draw a crowd to Yurcak.

Broadcast: Saturday April 18, 7p EST (YouTube)


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