Houston Dash vs Seattle Reign – AKA the Birthday Game

Let’s start from the beginning.

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I bought season tickets to the Houston Dash this year. They’re an expansion team in the NWSL women’s pro soccer league. The ninth team in the league that is in its second year. I bought them the day they came out and trusted the roster and the schedule would be favorable. I figured I’d be able to go to some of the games at least but in the end between so many weekday games and night games the travel from Austin didn’t work out. (Also they passed on Kelley O’Hara in the expansion draft…err…how?) I basically made a donation to support the club nearest to me, but was unable to go.

I did have one date I circled and planned, hell or high water, to attend. The one time in the season my team, the Seattle Reign, would be in town. Hope Solo’s birthday game even. A Wednesday night which meant I had to take off work for it to make the drive in from Austin on time and would be getting back home well past my bedtime. With my various health issues it was quite the adventure, but my sister agreed to be a passenger on the trip and watch her first pro soccer game so I had a safety net in case I got sick. I took vacation off at work, punched the coordinates into my garmin Majel, and packed safe-for-me-food to eat for the trip. Almost four hours later and we were there. Houston wasn’t as big of an armpit as I was warned it would be either. All in all an auspicious start to the evening.

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The stadium was awesome. It was way easier to get in and out from than Toyota Park in Chicago had been. Parking was just $10. The staff and everyone around was nice. They even gave me bubbles to blow onto the field for some reason. I did not do this when Hope was on my side.

The seats were great. Front row behind the visiting bench as I had planned. I sat front row at Toyota Park before but they had VIP seating right in front of me so it felt like I was actually six back or so. These were real front row seats.

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I got to watch them warm up right in front of me. Hope had 4-5 camera people taking shots of her during all of this. It was kind of funny seeing people warm up with everyone staring at them. Lost in their own worlds even when annoying tweens are yelling their names the whole time. I suppose they tune it out with practice. Everyone looked like they did on tv only narrower I want to say. In a fit, wiry way. It’s hard to describe but it catches me off guard each time. Athletes are lean. At one point Hope stood behind Kop for a second and the people near me thought she had left the field. Vanished.

Side note: Amanda Frisbie was doing most of the warm ups with the team. She’s getting better from her injury, but probably not in time for the end of the season. Hrmph. Carm also did warm ups despite being officially out for the season now and helped players warm up before being subbed in. Coach Carm!

As usual my iPhone camera made everything look super far away. I didn’t take a lot of pictures after I saw how bad they were and mostly just enjoyed the game with my own eyes as it should be. I made friends with the Dash fans around me. Everyone was really nice. There was a group of Reign family and friends in our section so the cheering was happening in an oddly syncopated way. Despite the scoreline everyone seemed to be having a good time in the stands. It was a beat down, but at least it was against the number one team I suppose.

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After the game I estimated my chances to get Hope to come over and sign my kit as fair, but not good. She could literally go anywhere to sign and just as easily work her way away from me as towards me. I draped the kit over the wall so she’d at least see a Reign fan was in my section if she felt inclined to come this way.

Hope started signing at the goal on my side and slowly worked her way around the bend and towards my seats near the center. Things looked to be going my way, but she was speeding up a little bit as it wore on and I was starting to think it would be a repeat of the infamous 6 Feet Rejection in Chicago.

Hope saw me holding her kit and stopped to sign it. One of her hands was full of birthday notes and things so as she was eyeing the kit she gave me a look (the one below) and said she needed flat surface to write on. Her hand was full and she mimed signing in the air with her one free hand. Everything I planned to say went out of my mind as I tried to produce a flat surface. I had actually brought a clipboard with me for that very reason, but one of the tweens from the flood that followed her around the stadium had gotten past my guard and had stepped on it (AND the poster I had other Reign players sign…arg!) and wouldn’t get off. I finally shoved my own hand behind the kit and she wrote her sig over that. I was so focused on making sure I didn’t mess up the flat surface and lose my chance that I forgot to say anything but mumble “thank you”.

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The girl next to me took the photos of her signing the kit and emailed them to me. That’s my hand there holding it. I said she captured my best angle. Hah! So it finally happened! My years (YEARS) long quest to meet my favorite sports star. Hope was above and beyond nice to people, signed for a long time, and made this fan very happy. Maybe next time I might actually say more than just “Thank you” while looking like an idiot. A new goal!

The drive back was long and dark and not much else. I was all geared up to going to another game until it was nearly three in the morning and my passenger had requested no music while she slept and it was like I was entombed in darkness. Hours after hours and I had to go to work the next day. These 8pm start times do not work for me.