2017 NWSL preview: Houston Dash

2017 NWSL preview: Houston Dash

The Houston Dash come into the 2017 NWSL season with plenty to be excited for. New critical faces joining key players for the Dash could possibly result in a succesful season.

Bianca Verar

The Houston Dash will host the first game of the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League season on Saturday, April 15 when they face the Chicago Red Stars. Before then, let’s take a look back at what the Dash have been up to since the end of the 2016 season.

Houston once again missed out on the playoffs for the third consecutive season despite their impressive second half of regular season play. Captain Kealia Ohai tied with Lynn Williams for most goals in the season with 11 in which all of Ohai’s came on July 16 and after. Since then, the Houston Dash have made plenty of moves in the off season. They’ve lost familiar faces, but also gained a lot of new faces from trades, new signings and the 2017 NWSL College Draft.

Strong opening, 1-0 losses, second half fire

On opening night, the southern team came out and made a statement with their 3-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars at home. The game that followed would be a big blow to the Dash. In their 3-1 loss to the new expansion team Orlando Pride, Carli Lloyd sprained her MCL in the fifth minute of the match. She’d have to see 3-6 weeks on the sidelines.

Two weeks later, the Dash saw the start of a six-game scoring drought. In every game between May 14 and July 9, Houston lost every match by a score of 1-0. On July 16, they finally found the back of the net not once, but three times against the Portland Thorns. They went on with a record of 3-3-3 for the remainder of the season, but were unable to sneak their way into the playoffs.

Carli Lloyd will join the Dash in May after playing at Manchester City. | Source: Trask Smith

Retirements, waives, trades

The Houston Dash said goodbye to quite a few faces in the offseason. Goalkeeper Haley Carter retired at the end of the season after putting in three seasons with the Dash. 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.

The Dash made their first trade of the offseason when 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.

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 New York Flash - now the North Carolina Courage - acquired Rosana’s rights in exchange for the Courage’s third round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft.

In the last of the Dash’s trades, Chioma Ubogagu was traded to the Orlando Pride in late January. Ubogagu played one season with the Houston Dash after playing overseas with Arsenal Ladies.

In addition, Carli Lloyd is currently with Manchester City Women. She will be with the club until May, when she will then return to the Houston Dash. Today, the Houston Dash have waived goalkeeper Bianca Henninger when they released the official roster. Henninger was one of the three remaining players from the original roster in 2014. With her waive, the only original players remaining are Kealia Ohai and Stephanie Ochs.

Three rookies for Houston

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 USWNT goalkeeper, Jane Campbell. Campbell was most recently on the roster for the pair of Texas friendlies with the USWNT. She made her first appearance for the USWNT just this past Sunday in her club city of Houston, making her way into the game in the 76th minute for Ashlyn Harris.

Campbell all smiles warming up before her first cap for the USWNT. | Source: Trask Smith

Late in the third round, they selected Nichelle Prince from Ohio State. The forward is part of Canadian Women’s National Team  and was part of the Canadian roster which won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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 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. Coach Randy Waldrum hopes she will be able to help with experience in the backline and be able to connect the defensive and midfield. The next player for the Dash came with signing of Claire Falknor. Falknor most recently played with German side Bayern Munich, and she was with the US U-23 Women’s National Team just last year.

The most recent addition to the Dash is forward Sarah Hagen. Hagen was one of the first players for the Orlando Pride last season, but she was waived last week. Before joining last year’s expansion club, Hagen was with FC Kansas City for two seasons. Hagen also has a few appearances for the USWNT under her belt, as well as experience overseas with Bayern Munich.

The Dash in 2017

There have been quite a few moves for the Dash this offseason, but the biggest thing for them is that there are a good number of players returning from last season. Having these same faces around will be great to continue what they had at the end of last season, and will be a good way to build and move forward onto this season. The attack for the Dash is a force to be reckoned with, or at least it should be. The key thing for these players will be finding the right mix and balance.

The Dash don’t have the best history when it comes to records and placement in standings, but with this roster there’s a lot to be excited about.

Record Prediction (win-loss-tie): 13-6-7

Overall Placement: 5th