Additional reporting by Jacqueline Purdy
On Tuesday, the Houston Dash made their new head coach official. The Dash named Vera Pauw as the second head coach in team history.
Pauw comes to Houston with a wealth of international coaching experience, most recently with the South African women’s national team. She guided Banyana Banyana through the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, as well as the 2014 Confederation of African Football Women’s Championship. Before that, she served as the technical director for the Russian women’s national team – as well as a brief stint as an interim head coach for Russia – as well as the head coach for her home nation of the Netherlands and Scotland.
“I’m very excited. It’s just a dream come true, isn’t it? To be able to be coach and play in facilities like BBVA Compass Stadium and in such a competitive league,” Pauw said in Houston’s official press release. “Soccer is an evolving sport here in the U.S. with a unique background, and I am very excited about the opportunity ahead to work with a very talented roster. We have a solid core of players that will be key in reaching our goals for 2018 and beyond.”
Pauw joins new Utah head coach Laura Harvey and Sky Blue FC’s Denise Reddy as the only women head coaches in the league this year.
“We have a vast experience and we bring as much if not more than the male applicants,” she said on a conference call with the media, mentioning Reddy and Harvey. “That’s a good sign because it means that there’s a future in the USA for women to become a coach as a profession. Not only at university level, but also at the pro league.”
Before joining the team, Pauw said that she spoke with Dash forward Carli Lloyd to discuss her training style, which she says is different from what the players are used to. Since arriving in Houston, she said she’s been able to talk to more of the players on the phone and that they are all “willing and happy to step into this new process.”
In her playing days, Pauw earned 89 caps for the Netherlands as a defender before retiring in 1998. She was the first woman to earn a UEFA Pro License from the Royal Dutch Football Association, passing in 2005 with the highest rates ever. Twelve years later, she was honored by that same association as a Knight prior to the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championship for her contributions to the game.
In 2016, Pauw made the shortlist of 10 candidates for the 2016 edition of the Best FIFA Women’s Coach, thanks to the Olympic qualification of South Africa.
— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) November 28, 2017
While she has not coached at the club level before, she said it will be similar to her time with South Africa, as the team was in camp for nine months leading up to the Olympics. Pauw also said she is looking to bring in a “very experienced” assistant coach with a knowledge of American players as she prepares for the January NWSL College Draft.
“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.”
And for Houston Dash defender Janine Van Wyk, the new head coach means a reunion. “I have worked with Vera Pauw for two and a half years and she is probably the best coach I have ever worked with in my career,” Van Wyk said in comments released by the Dash. “What I admire most about her is her professionalism, organization and her knowledge of the game. She is able to bring out the best in every single player. I’m excited to work with her again.”
With Houston’s hire, the final open coaching spot has now been filled for the 2017-2018 off-season. Pauw and her staff will now turn their focus to the 2018 NWSL College Draft. The Dash have six picks in January, including the third overall selection.
“We are thrilled to have Vera as the next Dash head coach and look forward to her making positive contributions to the club,” Dash president Chris Canetti said in the team’s release. “She brings a wealth of experience at the highest level, a strong record of success, and a passion for the game. She also has a strong desire to be a part of our club and believes in what we are building here in Houston.”