2017 Portland Invitational Preview: Houston Dash
The Houston Dash will be seriously tested against other teams in the league. | Source: Trask Smith

After last week’s 2-0 victory over Baylor University, the Houston Dash will have a greater test this preseason this next week with the Portland Invitational Tournament. They will face the Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars and the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team in order to improve before the 2017 NWSL season begins.

A stronger foundation for the Dash

Despite the fact Houston is preparing for their fourth season in the league, this is the first time they’re returning with a solid group of returners. It has been a struggle for the Dash to find chemistry over the past few seasons with new faces coming and out. Only three players from the Dash’s first official roster remain - Captain Kealia Ohai, Stephanie Ochs and Bianca Henninger - but there are many faces returning from the past season that have truly built the foundation for the Dash moving forward.

There are a total of 14 rostered players returning to the Houston Dash this upcoming season, as well as a handful of trialists who have trained with the team in previous seasons. Things were starting to piece together for the team in the second half of the season, when Ohai scored an impressive 11 goals to finish 2016. Now, with so many players and important figures coming back, they are able to continue the success from the end of last season.

Plenty of options for Waldrum

The Dash’s roster is known to have depth in their attack. Ranging from Denise O’Sullivan to Melissa Henderson, finding attacking players has never been a problem for the Dash. Although results of a threatening attack have been hard to come by at times, the Dash will hope to find the back of the net more often than not this year. They’ve also added new faces in Nichelle Prince and Amber Munerlyn up top. Prince was one of Houston’s picks from the 2017 NWSL College Draft, and she also represents Canada at the international level. Munerlyn played for UCLA and is a trialist for the Dash. She most recently scored one of the two goals in the Baylor game.

Ohai's 11 goals in the second half of season almost won her the Golden Boot in 2016. | Source: Trask Smith

Something the Dash have really struggled with since joining the league in 2014 is a consistent backline. Head coach Randy Waldrum hopes to change that this year, bringing in new faces to help. Janine Van Wyk is the biggest name to stand out on his new defender list. Van Wyk is part of the South Africa Women’s National Team and brings plenty of experience to a shaky backline. Some returners include Poliana and Cari Roccaro, both of which saw a good amount of action last season. Waldrum hopes his new mix is the right one for his back four.

Lastly, Waldrum currently has three goalkeepers on his roster. He has two returning in Henninger and Australian Lydia Williams, but also he’s added Jane Campbell. Campbell was possibly the biggest steal of the draft. Campbell is one of the best goalkeepers to come from Stanford, and she’s becoming a regular for the U.S. Women’s National Team. The starting position is up for grabs by any of these three, and it’ll be interesting to see how Waldrum handles it.

The Houston Dash kick off the Portland Invitational against the US U-23 WNT on Sunday, March 26. Kick off is at 2:30 pm Pacific Time.