Part of the transformation of the Houston Dash the past five games has been their ability to stay within their game. The club's turned results into confidence and confidence into positive performances on the field.
When Houston hosts the Boston Breakers for the second time this season, one of the challenges will be their ability to stay within their game mentally.
"From the way they dealt with us and watching them the last couple of games, they're a team that's going to try to sit in and tries to extend the game," head coach Omar Morales said Tuesday after training. "We have to make sure we're patient and keep moving the ball and don't get frustrated like we've done in previous games."
Houston doesn't want impatience to turn into counter-attacks for the Breakers.
Rushing passes, overpursuing and sacrificing shape to create chances were all on Morales' list of things not to do against Boston as they could open spaces at the back. Getting out of their game in the attack could lead to disaster towards their goal.
"They've got a ton of pace up top and a ton of talent there," goalkeeper Jane Campbell said. "We've got to watch their runners and see where the ball gets played and make sure our counters are protected and be solid from the back.
"People get out of position sometimes, and we'll have to cover for them; especially with their pace. We're going to have to be ready for the worst. It's definitely a dynamic conversation with the backs and midfield."
Part of that frustration will surely come from not being baited by the Breakers. Boston has committed more fouls than any team in the league. Part of their counter game is forcing mistakes either through solid defensive play or ‘going in hard' for tackles. While Houston has technical players such as Carli Lloyd, who will be back from suspension, Morgan Brian, Andressa, Poliana, and others; they have no plans to back down from a fight.
"I think it's part of the game, having to be able to deal with that," Morales said. "We have a team that can do both. They can be bruisers, per se, but we can also be piano players, and we can ping the ball around and keep it. If we're asked to be physical and kick people and take some hits, I think we're capable of doing that too."
FULL SLATE OF OPTIONS
Lloyd being back will be a big pick-me-up for the Dash. The superstar adds a dimension to the Dash attack that few others can bring. Having her back is a boost, as will be an added effort from Brian. The midfielder returned from injury with a 45-minute shift against the Washington Spirit last week.
"It was just kind of limiting her and making sure we're getting a healthy Morgan. Making sure her confidence is back up, and we don't risk her well-being," Morales said. "It's kind of a day-by-day with her, and maybe she can give us a little bit more on Saturday than what she did last Saturday. She's a good player, so she's going to help us be successful."