A hotly-contested 87th-minute penalty call in favor of the North Carolina Courage was enough to give the home side a 1-0 win over the Houston Dash this evening at WakeMed Park.
With the match scoreless in the waning minutes, referee Thomas Snyder awarded a penalty to North Carolina, judging that Dash midfielder Kristie Mewis fouled Courage forward Crystal Dunn inside the penalty area. Mewis was issued a yellow card moments later for dissent after disputing the call. North Carolina midfielder Sam Mewis converted the penalty to put the Courage ahead.
The penalty was the only ball to get past Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell, who finished with four saves in a brilliant performance, including several stellar reaction saves that kept Houston on level terms.
Houston had a penalty shout of their own in the 58th minute when midfielder Sofia Huerta was fouled from behind by North Carolina defender Jaelene Hinkle inside the penalty area, but Snyder waved it off and allowed play to continue.
Houston came out of the gates quickly, as forward Rachel Daly and Huerta linked up in midfield to create night’s first dangerous scoring opportunity in the fifth minute. Daly found Huerta in space and the American international dribbled into the box where she found Kristie Mewis at the far post, but Mewis’ effort went over the crossbar.
North Carolina threatened Campbell’s goal with back-to-back corners in the 15th minute. Midfielder Debinha’s corner kick found defender Abby Erceg inside the penalty area but her header was cleared at the far post. Sam Mewis tested her luck at the opposite post but her header was off target.
A defensive error forced a save from Campbell three minutes later as the Dash backline failed to clear a ball inside the penalty area. The second ball fell to forward Kristen Hamilton, but her effort was handled by Campbell at the near post.
Campbell was called into action again in the 28th minute when she got a palm on Debinha’s close-range effort off a cross from forward Lynn Williams. Williams was left unmarked at the far post in the 33rd minute but her header just missed the top corner of the left post.
The Dash shot stopper got a touch to Dunn’s effort in the 41st minute and finished the first half with four saves.
Houston forced back-to-back saves early in the second half off a counterattack sparked by outside back Haley Hanson. The University of Nebraska product dribbled from the defensive third to just outside the penalty area, but her effort missed the inside of the top corner of the far post.
Captain Kealia Ohai forced a save at the bottom corner of the near post two minutes later off a pass from Mewis.
Dunn nearly found the net in the 81st minute when she ran onto a pass from Williams, but her shot caromed of the crossbar.
The Dash face a quick turnaround as they travel to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to face Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park.