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Dash’s playoff hopes take hit with 2-1 loss to Utah

August 6, 2018

Utah Royals FC forward Christen Press played through the boos at BBVA Compass Stadium and scored the Royals’ first goal in the 77th minute to help Utah beat the Dash 2-1 on Sunday night.

The Dash (6-8-5) struck first and held the advantage for the majority of the match. Minutes before halftime, Dash midfielder Sofia Huerta sent a free kick sailing from about 45 yards out that connected with forward Veronica Latsko’s head and sunk into the right corner of the net.

The goal in the 41st minute was the rookie forward’s third of the season. It was Huerta’s fifth assist this season and third since arriving in Houston from the Chicago Red Stars in mid-June. The Boise, Idaho native has been setting her teammates up all year, and her performance on Sunday night helped solidify her spot in the top-five in the National Women’s Soccer League in assists.

Though Dash fans are happy that Huerta dons orange and blue, they haven’t forgot about the details surrounding her arrival.

She was acquired in a three-team trade that sent the rights to forward Christen Press — who was refused to play for the Dash after being traded to the team in January — and a conditional first-round draft pick to Chicago for Huerta and midfielder Taylor Comeau. Chicago then sent the rights to Press and defender Samantha Johnson to Utah for defender Brooke Elby and five draft picks.

Dash fans heckled Press every time she touched the ball.

“The fans were amazing tonight,” Dash forward Kealia Ohai said. “We heard them. We love our fans, and I’m just happy that they were all out here. We wish we could’ve gotten three points for them, but we really appreciate them coming out.”

The boos grew louder and louder each time the 5-7 striker dribbled, and reached their peak in the 77th minute, when Press stole the ball from Amber Brooks and drilled the goal that changed the momentum of the match.

“In the second half, we sort of came out and created a lot of chances,” Dash defender Clare Polkinghorne said. “We probably need to put a couple more away.”

Then, in the 83rd minute, the Royals (6-6-7) scored again. Midfielder Erika Tymrak’s assist set up Katie Stengel with the ball out in front of the three Dash players trailing her. Stengel popped a shot right over the fingertips of goalkeeper Jane Campbell’s left hand to give Utah a 2-1 advantage.

“I think we were attacking, and they obviously took some momentum away from us,” Ohai said. “It’s not one player. It’s all of us. We have to be sharper, and we have a better mentality of just ‘I am not going to let them score.’”

The Dash couldn’t find an answer and fell to the Royals for the second time this season.

Houston now falls to seventh place in the nine-team NWSL and three spots out of the playoff picture. It will be an uphill battle for the Dash to climb to fourth place with five regular-season games left on the schedule.

“We’re going to look at the tape and see a few errors we can improve on and work through the week on those,” Polkinghorne said. “We’re looking for a strong performance next week against (Chicago) Sky Blue.”

The Dash will get a week of rest before playing at Chicago Sky Blue next Saturday.

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