Six games ago the Houston Dash were struggling to find positives in their season. The results were not there, and the team was struggling to find an identity. Fast forward to the present, and the club is riding the confidence of a six-game unbeaten streak and looking to take the next step.
An opportunity at that is upon them Saturday as they travel to Portland to face the Thorns at one of the toughest places in NWSL to play.
"To be honest we don't really, with this group, look to see where we haven't won in previous years because we're not worried about that right now," head coach Omar Morales said. "If we want to be successful in this league we have to be able to win away from home. I think we've proved in the last few games we've turned the tide in away games as well as home games."
Morales was adamant that the club is not looking behind them, but that history is there, and the truth is the club has yet to win in Rose City. With Portland where Houston wants to be, in the playoff picture, these are games the club needs to win to continue to evolve.
"Playing there they have a huge fan base, and that atmosphere is fun to play in. They're a quality side, but we're feeling good and confident but for us, it's about playing the way we play," Camille Levin said.
"We have a lot to play for, and we're looking to go in there and win. We're not looking to come out with anything else."
INJURY BUG STRIKES AGAIN
Houston will not be at full strength against the Thorns with the news that Lydia Williams suffered a quadriceps strain while taking part in Australia's winning bid at the Tournament of Nations and will miss up to four weeks according to the Houston Chronicle. The club has signed former goalkeeper Bianca Henninger to take her place behind Jane Campbell. The Chronicle is also reporting that Morgan Brian will miss Saturday’s game with a groin injury.
The rest of Houston's international contingent – Brazilians Andressinha and Bruna Benites and U.S. international Campbell and Carli Lloyd – are expected to join the club in Portland Friday.
"The biggest piece is just making sure we're watching and making sure we communicate and just that we talk to them and make sure that they're capable of giving us good quality minutes and have players in position ready to go just in case the internationals can't," Morales said. According to the head coach, the club has been in consistent contact with the players while they have been away.
"We need to make sure if we need to limit them, we limit them, and just try and take care of them going into a stretch where we'll play three games in a week," Morales continued. "It's just making sure they're ready, and they're focused again on the Dash."
Houston's players have seen differing playing loads. Andressinha, Lloyd, and Williams have been starters while Brian and Benites have played varying minutes with Campbell yet to feature. Andressinha and Benites scored against the U.S. in a thrilling 4-3 loss for Brazil and Williams backstopped Australia to a tournament opening win over the Yanks.
KEEPING SINCLAIR IN CHECK
Portland – who are looking to extend a three-game home winning streak - will be getting their share of internationals back for the game, but the player who didn't leave – Canadian standout Christine Sinclair – has the Dash's attention.
"We just have to keep an eye on her…and limit her touches," Morales said. "She's good playing with her back to goal; we have to make sure when she does that, that she plays back and doesn't spin and hurt you because that's where she can hurt you the most."
Portland has slipped in their production this season. The Thorns were second in goals scored last season with 35, but are behind that pace this season with 19 through 15 games. Still, the goal scorer is a threat up top and with dangerous attackers Allie Long, Lindsay Horan, and Nadia Nadim all coming back from international duty presents a threat for the Dash back line.