Though the tide began to turn for the Dash late in the first half on Sunday night, striker Rachel Daly knew her team had to find another level.
A fiery speech in the locker room at halftime triggered the Dash early in the second half, and Daly himself provided the goal that gave Houston a 1-0 win over Racing Louisville in front of 3,292 fans at BBVA Stadium.
The game saw all six Dash Olympians in the starting XI for the first time in more than a month and ended with a result that sparked a winless streak of four games. But that wasn’t the only good news Houston (6-6-3, 21 points) got on Sunday.
In the early afternoon, the club announced that it had acquired US women’s national team center-back Abby Dahlkemper as part of a deal with North Carolina Courage. Dahlkemper didn’t play on Sunday, but she was there to see her new team find the extra punch it took to get Louisville all three points (4-8-4, 16 points).
“My words at halftime were, ‘If you want to start mediocre, let’s keep playing the way we are because that was mediocre,'” said Daly. “We weren’t the first on the ball. We didn’t push as much as we like to push. We didn’t collect enough second balls as we wanted.
“We were fine. We were well on our way. We were well on our way. The last ball wasn’t good enough. We didn’t exhaust our chances, but it was OK. And we’re not that team. We don’t want to be that team that is okay, and I think that’s a hit with everyone. “
Fittingly, it was Daly who scored the only goal of the game in the 49th minute.
The game started with midfielder Shea Groom hitting a 21-yard pass straight into the center of the field to help Nichelle Prince forward. In the crotch, Prince ran for the ball and when she hit the top of the box, she punched a cheeky pass through the legs of a Louisville defender at Daly.
On her first touch, Daly swept her right foot through the ball to strike goalkeeper Michelle Betos deep and into the side netting at the far post.
The Dash asked questions for another 15 minutes before Louisville was finally on the ball. Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell has had to make two major saves in the last 20 minutes, including one where she jumped up to the crossbar to knock off a shot.
“I thought we were much better after the water break in the first half, which lasted 15 minutes until half time. We’ve turned it up a gear, ”said Dash coach James Clarkson. “And when we got out in the second half, I think we shifted up two or three gears so it was really good to see.”
Clarkson said it was also very nice to see Dahlkemper in the stadium and as part of the team.
Known for her strong tackle and top notch distribution, Dahlkemper has made 74 USWNT appearances since her debut in 2016.
At the Summer Olympics in Japan this summer, she played three games in which the team won the bronze medal. She started every game of the 2019 FIFA World Cup, which ended with the fourth USWNT World Cup.
Dahlkemper has won three NWSL championships with the Courage and the Western New York Flash. She was named NWSL Defender of the Year in 2017 and NWSL Best XI in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
(“It’s great) You can always add a world-class player, a World Cup winner with incredible experience, a serial winner,” said Clarkson. “She won everywhere she was. To convey that experience, we consider it to kick off the playoffs. I think it’s vital and hopefully it will have a huge impact on us on and off the field. “