After an impressive performance last Friday in her first start of the season against Sky Blue FC, Houston Dash forward Chioma Ubogagu is targeting additional time on the field in an attacking line that features a team co-captain, a Canadian National Team player and previous NWSL Player of the Week.
“I think the four of us could all start, play 90 minutes and leave an imprint on the game,” Ubogagu said. “As a coach, Randy [Waldrum] loves it. For a forward, when there are four of you competing for three spots it is going to get competitive and sometimes you may not get as many minutes as you want. At the end of the day it is about the team. “
The Stanford alumna credits the competition for playing time for strengthening the chemistry among the forwards. The race for playing time drives them to stay after training to practice free kicks and finishing.
“I think all of us have done a really good job of being friends off and on the field, helping each other get better and remaining competitive because we want to play,” Ubogagu said. “Whoever Randy picks will make a great impression and leave a great mark on the game. We just want to get out there and score our share of goals.”
Ubogagu, 23, started in Friday’s draw and played 80 minutes, bringing new flair to the offense with a handful of dangerous runs. The most noticeable sequence came in the 17th minute when the Coppell, Texas, native dribbled from the edge of the box toward the penalty spot past four defenders, who eventually cleared the danger. Still, the move highlighted her dribbling prowess and confidence in the final third of the field.
Waldrum was pleased with Ubogagu’s performance and wanted to give her additional time due to her overall contributions at the beginning of the season.
“I think she deserved to start after she came off of the bench against Chicago,” Waldrum said. “She did pretty well for us and then she was probably our bright spot coming off the bench against Orlando so I felt like she really deserved that opportunity,” Waldrum said. “Overall, you can see that she’s very creative and very comfortable with pressure on her, with her back to the goal or running at defenders.”
The next test for the Dash and Ubogagu is this Saturday against FC Kansas City (7:30 p.m. CT; HoustonDashSoccer.com/live). The forward is confident that she is well prepared to match the increased level of competition in this league and expects a tough game from the two-time NWSL champions.
Ubogagu spent last season with Arsenal Ladies in the FA Women’s Super League, a competition regarded for its emphasis on technical skill and tactical knowhow. Back in the U.S., Ubogagu is adjusting to the athleticism and speed of play of the American league.
“The athleticism of the players in the league and the speed is top notch. So you really have to know what you want to do with the ball two to three passes before you play the ball,” Ubogagu said. “It has definitely been exciting, it has been challenging but overall it has been fun to play in this league. We have a tough game this weekend but that’s what you want. You want to play the best and measure yourself.”
The competition for minutes in Saturday’s game in Kansas City has brought on one of the best weeks of training for the team that is looking for its first points on the road this season.
“This week has been good, we’ve done a good job of keeping the intensity and keeping a competitive environment,” Ubogagu said. “Randy has done a good job of not sticking to a lineup yet so we are still competing for spots and want to show that we can make an impact. We are pretty excited to go to Kansas City.”
The Dash return to BBVA Compass Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20 to host Alex Morgan and the Orlando Pride in what will be the first of two trips to Houston for the NWSL’s newest franchise. For tickets and additional information, visit HoustonDashSoccer.com/tickets.