Four months to the day that the Houston Dash were officially announced as the first expansion franchise in the National Women's Soccer League, they played their inaugural match against the defending champions Portland Thorns.
The two MLS-owned franchises kicked off the NWSL season at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday night. The Thorns (Portland Timbers) finished atop the womens league's maiden season last year. The Dash (Houston Dynamo) are the first expansion club in the league's young history.
It would have been damn right near impossible for the Dash to replicate what the Dynamo did in their Houston christening back in 2006 - especially since the Dynamo were a relocated franchise coming off a Supporters' Shield in 2005 in San Jose. But with a crowd of 8,097 - double the average in the National Women's Soccer League last season - the Dash are on their way to solidifying themselves in the professional women's soccer ranks.
But back to Saturday night, here are five things Hair Balls learned from the Dash's opening kick in Houston.
5. Crowd participation to the max throughout match
If there's one thing I learned from Saturdays match, it's that the acoustics at BBVA Compass Stadium are bad ass. Whether it's 22,000 at a Dynamo match, or the 8,097 on hand on Saturday night, the constant cheering and singing reverberated throughout the stadium.
Helping the crowd and the Dash throughout the match was the Orange Brigade - the club's first official supporters' group. The festive atmosphere they created pushed the team all the way to the final whistle.
"The atmosphere was amazing," Dash defender Nikki Washington said. "To walk out and see it packed, the fans loud and engaged and cheering till the last minute, they were with us the whole time."
4. This game helped Dash tune-up for two game road trip
The Dash play their next two games on the road against the Boston Breakers and Seattle Reign, searching for that first franchise victory.
Win or lose - or tie - the Dash look forward to coming back to BBVA and sending the fans off with a win. "It's one of the best places to play in the world, already," Washington said.
3. OK, so Thorns pounce early on the newbs
Even with all the energy at BBVA during the build-up to the kick-off, the first half was a series of unfortunate events. Within the first couple of minutes, the Dash suffered a pair of injuries to Brittany Bock and Kealia Ohai. Both would return to the match, but Bock would have to be subbed out soon after. Minutes after Bock's departure, the defending champs found the back of net for the 1-0 lead.
2. Dash press for the equalizer
The goal was the last time the Thorns were dangerous. The Dash started to get more dominance on the ball in the second half. Still it was the last play of the match that had the home fans cheering and screaming - if only for a brief second. Becky Edwards seemed to be the hero of the match, when she redirected a headed ball into the back of the net. However, the outside official ruled that she was off sides, which negated the goal.
1. Dash and Thorns the model for success in NWSL
And because both teams that competed this weekend are owned by Major League Soccer clubs, they have resources that the other seven don't. Namely, they have access to professional training facilities and stadiums, and pro staffs that handle all things business. These organizations know what it takes it to be in a niche sport, and how to find your way in a crowded sports market.
If there were two MLS franchises that could succeed in NWSL, it would be two of the top four franchises in Forbes list. Not many MLS clubs would be able to do what the Dynamo did with the Dash, to search for and hire a coaching staff, put together a roster of players, and train them to play an attacking style of soccer. We'll see what the future holds. The season's young.
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