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Houston Dash

Run of Play: Opportunities Lost

The 27-year old center back for Orlando scores her first goal of the 2017 season with a rocket against FC Kansas City. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Much of the talk around the NWSL water cooler this week was on Sam Kerr’s hat trick, and rightfully so. If not that, then FCKC’s two goals that weren’t enough, Marta and Mallory Pugh’s dual braces, or Lindsey Horan’s stoppage-time strike. Goals are usually the number-one topic after a game of soccer because after all, isn’t that the point of the game?

But what about the missed goals, the ones that got away, the missed chances that could have changed the story?

Perhaps the most egregious miss of the weekend belongs to Megan Rapinoe, who has been so sure-footed as of late, she’s tied in the Golden Boot race with Kerr on nine goals. In the 45th minute of Seattle’s game at North Carolina, Seattle down by one, Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland dawdled too long with the ball outside the box. Rapinoe came streaking in and stripped the ball from Rowland’s feet with ease, leaving her facing an open net. She got her shot off before Rowland dove, and though it appeared she was aiming for a roller toward the far post, it went just wide.

The miss is baffling for a number of reasons – Rapinoe is in the form of her life, not even a defender was anywhere near the goal, she didn’t have to try for far post – but what must gall even more is that would likely have sent the teams into the locker room tied, with the Reign riding the momentum of an equalizer, and could have set the tone for an entirely different second half. Instead, McCall Zerboni put the game away for the Courage in the 81st minute, restoring them to first place in the standings while the Reign, who could have stayed above in 3rd Sky Blue, instead are just one point above fifth-place Portland.

Up until second half stoppage time of the Portland match in Houston, Carli Lloyd was having a pretty good night for the Dash. They were up by one over the Thorns thanks to an early Janine Beckie goal, and Lloyd was setting up her teammates time and again with one of the weekend’s best displays of passing. After several attempts, she had another chance to put the game away in the 87th minute. She set it into motion herself, playing a wonderfully weighted through ball for Rachel Daly to run onto. Daly held up play long enough for Lloyd to arrive on scene and cut it back to her teammate. Lloyd had plenty of time and space to put it on frame, but she appeared just out of stride, getting a foot on it and falling to the ground as the ball sailed wide.

Given what happened minutes later – Horan’s beautiful direct free kick to steal a point back for the Thorns and Lloyd’s subsequent red card – this particular miss has to sting. Though the standings wouldn’t be any different, the Dash would be two points closer to the playoff spots with a two-game winning streak, and likely Lloyd would be available for next week’s game against Washington.

This one isn’t technically a miss, but Maya Hayes certainly should have been the one to score first for Sky Blue against Kansas City last week. FCKC was up by two goals but down by one player after Shea Groom was sent off. In the 49th minute, Kerr flicked a neat no-look backheel into the box that Kelley O’Hara passed on to Hayes. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart came out facing O’Hara, leaving Hayes with what was essentially an open net. However, instead of going with any power, Hayes opted for a toe poke, leaving just enough time for defender Becca Moros to clear the ball off the line with a precise slide.

Sky Blue, of course, went on to win the game anyway thanks to the aforementioned hat trick, but Hayes is still likely to look back on this moment and sigh.

At the end of the day, sometimes soccer is a game of inches.

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