2018 NWSL team preview: Houston Dash
VAVEL USA previews the Houston Dash ahead of the 2018 season. | Photomontage: VAVEL USA (photo via Trask Smith)

The Houston Dash will open the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League season at home when they take on the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, March 25. Before that, VAVEL USA is going to take a look at the 2017 season and the aftermath.

With the departure of the Boston Breakers from the league, Houston is now the only team that has not made it into the playoffs - aside from the Utah Royals, who have just come into existence this year. This prompted offseason and even midseason changes for the Dash, and as they enter 2018, the league is looking at a brand new club with new goals and new faces.

A struggle of identity and consistency

Season four for the Houston Dash brought an onslaught of new challenges and adversities for the ever-struggling club. They started off strong once again with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars, but they went on a losing streak shortly after, which started with a 5-1 loss to the Seattle Reign and a tough debut for US Women’s National Team goalkeeper Jane Campbell.

A little over a month into the 2017 season, the Houston Dash parted ways with four-year head coach Randy Waldrum and assistant Omar Morales stepped in as interim. The Dash continued to struggle and forward Melissa Henderson retired in the weeks that followed. Not too long after, Kealia Ohai tore her ACL during their match against the Orlando Pride.

Jane Campbell has come into her own with the Houston Dash after one year. | Source: Trask Smith

There were a number of trades made throughout the rest of the season, including the departure of USWNT midfielder Morgan Brian and addition of Kristie Mewis, but the Dash still continued to struggle in most of their matches. Their playoff hopes were ended with a 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage.

Plenty of offseason moves

With another disappointing season under their belt, the Houston Dash were well aware that change needed to come quickly if they want to come out competitive in 2018. From the end of the 2017 season to now, the Dash have completely turned around in terms of faces.

The biggest name to go is Carli Lloyd, who has returned home to play for Sky Blue FC. This trade also sent Canadian forward Janine Beckie to Sky Blue as well. This trade was part of a three way trade between the Dash, Sky Blue, and the Chicago Red Stars. The Dash had agreed to trade Lloyd and Beckie in return for USWNT forward Christen Press, but after misunderstandings and recent reports, it appears that Press has no plans to play for the Houston Dash this season.

Even more new faces than before have come to join the Dash this season, including the likes of former Portland Thorns players Mana Shim and Savannah Jordan as well as Australian forward Kyah Simon, who was with the Boston Breakers a few seasons back. The announced the full roster today, with a total of 19 players.

Bringing it all together in preseason

With all the new changes, the Houston Dash are looking pretty good as they bring different pieces together. Day one of preseason brought a 2-0 scrimmage against the boys’ Rise Soccer Club followed by a few days later when they fell 3-0 to the boys’ Dynamo Academy. The Dash then traveled to the reputable Texas A&M and persevere with a 1-0 victory.

Kyah Simon (left) returns to the NWSL after a few season away. | Source: Boston Breakers

The final test for the Houston Dash before the 2018 NWSL season was the Thorns Spring Invitational where they faced the Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars, and the US U-23 Women’s National Team. The Dash came away with a 2-1 win over the U-23s, a 1-0 loss against Chicago, and a 0-0 draw against hosts Portland Thorns to wrap up their trip.

New year, new Dash

There is a huge sense of change and identity within the Houston Dash organization. With the pressure of being the only already existing team that hasn’t made playoffs, there’s a lot on the line. As intimidating as that can be, there is also a freshness to the Houston Dash that we haven’t seen. Things are looking pretty hopeful for the club this season, and they’re hungry to finally make postseason for the first time in the franchise.

Record Prediction: 13-4-6 (win-loss-tie)

Overall Placement: 4th