Sky Blue heading for Houston in search of three points

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By TOM SLATER

It’ll be a short week for both Houston Dash and Sky Blue FC as they both prepare for a rare Friday night match in Texas in week 3 of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

And both teams will be trying to erase some bad feelings from last weekend.

Sky Blue dropped a 2-1 decision to visiting Washington Spirit while the Dash visited the brand new Orlando Pride and fell 3-1, before a league-record crowd of 23, 403 at the Citrus Bowl.

But the Dash lost a little more than a game. Carli Lloyd, the United States Women’s National Team star, suffered a Grade 1 sprained medial collateral ligament in her right knee in the opening minutes and will miss three to six weeks. Lloyd landed awkwardly on her knee challenging for a ball in the fifth minute and fell to the Citrus Bowls artificial turf.

She isn’t expected back until late May or early June — plenty of time to get ready for the Rio Olympics but maybe not in time for a pair of pre-tournament matches with Japan on June 2 and 5.

Houston (1-1) has other weapons, however. Rachel Daly, who was the NWSL player of the Week for her goal and an assist performance in a 3-1 win against Chicago opening day, is dangerous up front. Brazil’s Andressa and American international Morgan Brian form an interesting midfield duo.

Sky Blue FC (1-1) came out flat against the Spirit and fell behind 2-0 10 minutes after halftime Sunday night. But the last 25 minutes or so were encouraging for Sky Blue fans. The New Jersey team brought numbers forward and became more aggressive. Maya Hayes, playing well in the midfield after a short experiment as a defender, scored the long Sky Blue goal.

The goal led to a more spirited attack but it couldn’t get the equalizer.

Coach Christy Holly lamented the team’s slow start but said he still believes his current squad can play with the marquee teams of the NWSL.

Keys to a victory in Houston will be:

  • Continued solid play in the back: With two rookies and two international players, Sky Blue’s backline has played well up to this point. As Rutgers’ grad Erika Skroski and trialist find Erin Simon mature and get used to the fast NWSL style, they will only get better.
  • Play the ball through the midfield: Sarah Killion and Raquel Rodriguez showed flashes of comfortableness Sunday and if Sky Blue is serious about contending, these two will be key. Rodriguez needs to obtain a comfort level with her teammates that will let her play to her strengths and with flair. That started to show late in the game Sunday.
  • Get Tasha Kai The electric striker didn’t have a lot of touches in the first half and not really many until late in the game. The earlier Kai can bother the Dash defense, the better it’ll be for Sky Blue.

It’s not easy to win on the road but given the Dash’s issues playing without Lloyd, Sky Blue FC has an excellent chance for three points on the road.

Game time is Friday 8:30 p.m. at BVAA Compass Stadium. The match will be streamed live.