The Houston Dash earned their second consecutive shutout in a scoreless draw with OL Reign tonight at Cheney Stadium tonight in the team’s first away match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant.
In the 12th minute, Dash forward Bri Visalli began to fuel Houston's attack when she found the ball at the corner of the box off a Reign defensive rebound and quickly fired a shot on goal forcing a save from Reign goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. Visalli appeared to find the back of the net seven minutes later, but the goal was ruled offside.
Houston forward Katie Stengel forced a second save from Bardsley in the 31st, dribbling past several OL Reign defenders and into the box before striking a right-footed ball into the middle of the goal.
Four minutes later, the Reign took their first chance when forward Leah Pruitt shot to force a comfortable save from Dash goalkeeper Lindsey Harris.
Houston continued to take advantage of counterattacks in the final minutes of the first half, pressing hard up top. Minutes before the halftime whistle, Visalli served a high ball into the box to find Dash forward Veronica Latsko, who jumped and nodded a header just wide of the goal.
Tonight’s captain Shea Groom reignited Houston’s attack less than a minute into the second half when the forward took a chance on a long ball a few feet outside the box, but Bardsley was able to get her hands on the ball.
Former Dash midfielder Sofia Huerta had the best chance of the night for OL Reign when she took a volley shot inside the box that landed straight in Harris’ hands in the 62nd minute.
Houston midfielder Deneisha Blackwood, a second-half substitute, nearly found the winner for the Dash in stoppage time. As the clock reached 90 minutes and ticked into stoppage time, Blackwood raced down the left flank and into the OL Reign penalty area before cracking a shot that smashed into the side netting.
In her second NWSL career appearance, Harris finished with two saves, posting her second consecutive clean sheet. Houston’s defensive success tonight was due in large part to the play of center backs Katie Naughton and Megan Oyster. The duo combined to make 14 clearances tonight.
The Dash will continue their Challenge Cup campaign on the road on Monday, April 26 when they visit Kansas City, Kansas to face the newly-added Kansas City NWSL in their first league matchup.