The National Women’s Soccer League preseason quickly approaching ahead of the 2017 season. This will be the league’s fifth season in business, and the Houston Dash’s fourth after being the first ever NWSL expansion team in 2014. There have been many changes throughout the league since the end of the 2016 season, and the Houston Dash has played a very big part of shaking things up.
Losing some familiar faces, trades on trades
Much like other teams, the Houston Dash have said goodbye to a few members of last season’s squad. First up was a huge one for anyone who follows the Dash closely: goalkeeper Haley Carter. Although she was never actually in goal for Houston, she was definitely a leader and respected teammate among her peers. Carter was a role model to plenty of players and really helped create the culture of the Houston Dash over the past few seasons.
Next, the Dash’s Australian defender Ellie Brush was put on the Re-Entry Wire List. After spending two seasons with the Dash, Brush decided to return to Australia. She most recently played for Canberra United in the Westfield W-League and is currently playing in Australia’s AFL league with the Greater Western Sydney Giants. Although she proved to be helpful on many occasions, she struggled to be as impactful this past season for Houston.
The Dash made their first trade of the offseason at the end of November. They traded Canadian defender Allysha Chapman to the Boston Breakers in exchange for 2017 and 2018 international roster spots, as well as the 15th overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft. Chapman was with the Dash for two seasons, but was never a consistent starter due to her national team duties.
Throughout the past few seasons, it’s been clear that head coach Randy Waldrum enjoys the talent of Brazil. Although this player never actually trained or played with the Houston Dash, the organization claimed Rosana’s rights in 2014. In late December, the Western York Flash - now the North Carolina Courage - acquired Rosana’s rights in exchange for the Flash’s (Courage’s) third round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft.
In the last of the Dash’s trades up to this point, Chioma Ubogagu was traded to the Orlando Pride in late January. The forward signed with the Dash in January of 2016 after playing abroad with Arsenal Ladies for a season. Although she’s known to be a bright talent, she wasn’t as productive for the Dash as everyone hoped she would be. In exchange for her, the Pride gave the Dash their third round pick for the 2018 NWSL College Draft.
Lloyd temporarily goes abroad
The year of 2017 looks like a year to play overseas for well-known American players. First Alex Morgan with Lyon, Heather O’Reilly with Arsenal, and Crystal Dunn with Chelsea Ladies. With rumors flying around, it wasn’t surprising that Carli Lloyd decided to pursue this option as well. The USWNT midfielder and co-captain has signed with Manchester City to start off her 2017. She will return to the Dash mid-season as soon as her time with City ends. Although she has become a very prominent member of the Dash and her presence will be evident, it gives opportunity for other players to step up and get the job done while she is in England.
Trio of rookies to join
The 2017 NWSL College Draft proved fruitful for the Houston Dash, who came away with three fresh prospects. The biggest name out of their selections is Stanford and now USWNT goalkeeper, Jane Campbell. Campbell is currently part of the USWNT’s SheBelieves Cup roster as the third goalkeeper. She’s one of the most remarkable goalkeeper that have come through Stanford’s program and Waldrum couldn’t help but go for it when she was still available by time Houston had a turn.
Although the Dash lost one Canadian through trade, they gained another thanks to the draft. Late in the third round, Houston selected Nichelle Prince from Ohio State. The forward has been part of Canadian Youth National Teams in the past and was part of the Canadian roster which won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is currently in Portugal with the Canadian Women’s National Team as part of the Algarve Cup roster.
The last of Houston’s draft is Erin Smith from Rutgers. The defender captained her Rutgers team and will add some serious depth to the Houston Dash backline, which hasn’t been able to find a consistent back four since its beginning in 2014.
New faces with new signings
Lastly, the Dash have also continued to expand their roster through new signings over the few months. In late December, they announced the signing of South African defender Janine Van Wyke. Van Wyke is South Africa’s most capped player with 125 appearances for her country. Waldrum hopes she will be able to help with experience in the backline and be able to connect the defensive and midfield.
The most recent signing from the Dash came just a couple of week ago when they announced the signing of Claire Folkner. Folkner most recently played with German side Bayern Munich, and she was with the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team just last year. Another defender for Waldrum, she had an excellent collegiate career at the University of Florida with 65 consecutive starts. Her high soccer IQ will definitely be a great addition to the Dash backline this season.
The Houston Dash will begin their preseason on March 13, with their first scrimmage on March 18 against Baylor University. They open their NWSL season at BBVA Compass Stadium on April 15 against the Chicago Red Stars.