Anthony Vasser/Houston Dash

Off the bench: Substitutes make all the difference in Houston Dash's first franchise win

The typical lineup sheet for a professional soccer match consists of 18 players—11 starters and seven on the bench—but injuries and roster size left the Houston Dash shorthanded with just six available substitutes on Sunday night. The deficit for the Dash was only in numbers and not in quality, as the substitutes used proved in the 3-2 comeback victory over the Boston Breakers.

Lindsay Elston was first off the sideline, replacing Stephanie Ochs at halftime. Forward Rafaelle Souza followed in the 65th minute in place of Ella Masar, and Teresa Noyola joined the attack ten minutes later, coming on for Dominique Richardson. The latter two changes ended up being the difference in the match.

“I thought in particular, the changes that we made ended up really making us look good, they were good changes,” head coach Randy Waldrum said after the match. “Teresa came in and really had an impact, but I thought Rafa coming in really helped change the game for us—she really made a few things happen.”

If Souza’s performance, which was her professional debut, caught the Breakers off guard, the same could possibly be said of her own teammates. The Brazilian joined the team for the weekend to offset the loss of Brittany Bock and Kealia Ohai due to injury, but hasn’t been with the team since the first week of preseason as she finishes her civil engineering degree at Ole Miss.

“We joked with her that she’s fresh and that’s why she got her [assist],” Ella Masar said of the second round pick. “She’s somebody that not a lot of people know about and she works hard. You can see, she created. She changed the game when she came in. We’re just glad she’s done with school soon.”

Souza played creator on the Dash’s final two goals, while Noyola put on the crucial finishing touches. Souza’s dribbling attracted a crowd of Breakers defenders at the top of the penalty area in the 81st minute before she layed off a pass to Noyola, who drilled a perfect shot to the top corner. Souza dribbled in the box again minutes later and was chopped down by Courtney Jones to earn a penalty kick, which Noyola tucked away to secure the win.

Coming off the field after visiting with a handful of Houston fans in the stands, Noyola said there were times during the game that she was unsure if she would even step onto the field, but she took advantage of the situation when Waldrum did call her name—not unlike the situation many of these players were in until the Dash rolled around as an expansion club.

“We said it from day one: it’s not about a starting 11,” Masar said. “We're a new team and people are all here for a reason. [Teresa], I think she had some stuff to prove like we all do and she came and did it. People are going to have to step up at different times, different games. We’re all going to have to step up and do our job.”