The Houston Dash team that takes the field on March 25 at home vs. the Chicago Red Stars will look quite different from the team that finished the 2017 season. With a new head coach in Vera Pauw and a number of new players on on offense, it’s a bit of a rebuilding year for the Dash.
There’s also the ongoing situation surrounding Christen Press. Late last week, news broke via Corey Roepken in the Houston Chronicle that Press, whose rights the Dash acquired in a draft day trade, would not be reporting to preseason camp in Houston. When speaking with Anne M. Peterson of the Associated Press, new head coach Vera Pauw declined to discuss the Press situation on Monday night in Portland.
When the Press situation will be resolved is unclear. Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reports that she has multiple contract offers to play in Sweden and that a trade to Utah is still possible.
No matter what happens, the trade to that sent her rights to the Dash was the biggest move of the NWSL offseason. In a three-team deal, they traded away Lloyd and Beckie and acquired the former Red Stars forward, whose 35 career goals is tied for second in NWSL history. The team that struggled to score goals in 2017 had acquired the rights to a prolific goal scoring threat.
Head coach: Vera Pauw
Home stadium: BBVA Compass Stadium
Savannah Jordan, forward
Thembi Kgatlana, forward
Linda Motlhalo, midfielder
Kyah Simon, forward
Janine Beckie, forward
Carli Lloyd, forward
Christen Press, forward
Aside from the Press trade, the Dash acquired a number of offensive players to help bolster the attack in Kyah Simon of Australia and Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo of South Africa. Simon, whose rights were acquired in the Boston Breakers dispersal draft, is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the W-League Grand Final in February. Kgatlana was recently named MVP of the Cyprus Cup.
They’ll also get forward Kealia Ohai, who tore her ACL in June of 2017, back on the field at some point this season. Ohai tied for the league lead in goals in 2016 with 11.
Andressinha, Beckie and Lloyd have been key parts of the Dash attack for the last few years — without them things will look much different in orange.
By the Numbers
2017: 7-14-3, 8th place (Home: 3-7-2, Away: 4-7-1)
23 goals for (10th in the NWSL), 39 goals against (8th)
Defender Amber Brooks was one of just six players to player every minute of the 2017 season, logging 2160 minutes. She also led the team in total touches (1451), tackles won (58), clearances (102) and blocks (22). Brooks was voted one of the most underrated players in the NWSL in the 2018 Media Survey. Defender Janine van Wyk, who appeared in 17 games in her first season with the Dash, was second on the team in clearances (77) and blocks (20).
After a rocky first game, Jane Campbell took over in net full-time midway through the season, and was a key part of a 5-2-2 run over the summer that briefly lifted the team to fifth place. In 16 games, Campbell made 65 saves, earning a save percentage of 73%
On either side of that run, however, the Dash went on six game winless streaks (0-6 in the first, then 0-5-1 to end the season).
The losses of Andressinha and Janine Beckie leave big holes to fill on offense. Andressinha was fourth in the NWSL with 45 chances created and Beckie was second on the Dash with 39 (good for eighth in the league).
Rachel Daly led the teams in goals with five last season, but now seems likely to to be a defender this year. Midfielder Kristie Mewis, who played five games for the Dash after a trade from the Red Stars, has been lining up on the backline this preseason.
This season will be Simon’s second stint in the NWSL. She scored three goals in two seasons (2015/16) with the Breakers.
Head Coach Vera Pauw:
Games to Watch
Houston Dash vs. Chicago Red Stars
Saturday, March 25 | go90| 5 p.m. ET
For the third straight season, the Houston Dash will take on the Chicago Red Stars at home to open the season. Rachel Daly’s brilliant goal in last year’s opener was one of the highlights of the season.
Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash
Saturday, May 5 | go90 | 7 p.m. ET
Carli Lloyd’s first game vs. her old team. It’s also the first meeting between 2018’s two new coaches: Vera Pauw and Sky Blue FC coach Denise Reddy.
Houston Dash vs. Portland Thorns FC
Wednesday, May 9 | go90 | 8 p.m. ET
The Dash had nearly wrapped up a crucial win over Portland Thorns FC in July of 2017, but Lindsey Horan’s free kick in the 91st minute meant that they only walked away with a draw.
In Focus Nov. 28: Dash name Vera Pauw head coach
By Meg Linehan
“I think this team has enthusiasm to show to everybody; because of the qualities that we have in the team, the diversity that we have in the team and we can bring something to soccer in the United States,” Pauw said as a message to Dash fans.“We need to emit that to Houston and the rest of the league. What I would like from the fans is to support us in that, because together we can create a soccer fest of it. A year in which things are developing to a stage where people want to come, not only the fans that have always supported us, but you create a new fan base as well. If there is a full-stadium for the Dynamo like last night, then why not for the Dash? It’s our task to show people that it is worthwhile to come and that you can become as passionate as we are to win this league, maybe not this year, but very soon.”
Pauw said she was attracted by the NWSL’s competitive balance. “There’s no easy game at all in the whole league. Every single minute is competitive,” she told the media on the conference call. “I am very much fond of [the salary cap rules] and maybe that surprises people, but I think that is necessary for a competitive league that is sustainable into the future. But that means also that my salary is not what I got in other places. But I’m not coming for the salary. I’m coming for the challenge. That is why I think players want to be there.”
Roster (as of 3/19)
Rostered Players (19 of 20 spots filled)
Federation Players (FED): 2
International Roster Spots Filled (INTL): 6