The Houston Dash named James Clarkson head coach on Tuesday afternoon, at a press conference at BBVA Compass Stadium. Dash managing director Brian Ching introduced Clarkson at a press conference with the media on Tuesday afternoon in Houston.
Clarkson spent 2007 to 2018 with the Houston Dynamo Academy, most recently as director of youth development. He helped launch Brazos Valley Cavalry FC, Houston’s Premier Development League affiliate and served as head coach of the team from 2017 to 2018. Clarkson also organized the Dash’s summer scrimmage with Rayadas de Monterrey, the first NWSL/Liga MX Femenil scrimmage, the Dash said in a news release announcing his hiring.
Clarkson and the Dash said the technical staff would now include two full-time assistants and a full-time goalkeeping coach and that the full staff is expected to be announced in the coming days. Clarkson said he had already spoken with almost every player on the team.
“We want to create the right sort of culture, the right environment. We want it to be competitive. We want them to compete Monday to Friday, and ultimately have a real impact on a Saturday. I want the players to come to training every day feeling that they’ve got a chance to making the starting XI,” he said.
Clarkson’s tenure comes following the departure of Vera Pauw on September 20 after Pauw was the head coach of the team in 2018. He takes over a Houston Dash side that had its best-ever season in 2018, finishing with a 9-10-5 record, 32 points and 35 goals scored, all franchise bests. Dash forward Rachel Daly finished fourth in the league in scoring, with 10 regular season goals. Despite the strong season, the Dash missed out on the playoffs, and have never made the postseason in their five seasons in the NWSL.
Both Ching and Clarkson spoke about building on what Pauw accomplished in 2018.
“Haven’t really gotten a chance to publicly thank Vera Pauw for her service to the club over the past year. I think she’s done a fantastic job of really getting us organized and really bringing this team to a point where I think that we’re going to start competing for the playoffs as we move forward,” Ching said.
“I thought Vera did a terrific job. She laid down a fantastic foundation that I’m fortunate enough to be able to inherit and the squad is strong. They’re a great group of players and they want to win,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson will be the third full-time head coach of the Dash, joining Pauw and inaugural head coach Randy Waldrum. Omar Morales served as interim coach in 2017.
“[Clarkson] really understands the game. He’s lived the game, breathed the game, from his beginnings basically. A lot of that came though, in every conversation I had, more and more. One of the things that we really wanted to do was find a coach that could make that right connection with the players. I think that’s something that we’ve lacked in the past. I think we’ve had great coaches who had great soccer minds, but I think that connection with the players wasn’t quite where it needed to be,” Ching said.
Clarkson praised last year’s attacking presence — the team ranked fourth in goals scored — but noted that the Dash conceded a lot of goals — second most in the NWSL.
“Maintaining that attacking play while trying to avoid conceding as many goals and getting a little bit stingier at the back is vitally important,” he said. “For me, my philosophy has always been [that] I want to attack. I think it’s entertainment. So we’ve got to try to put a product on the field that’s going to be entertaining and that’s usually scoring goals and attacking, so that’s what I want to do.”
"James has been involved with the club in different ways over the years and he was one of our top candidates when this process began. We look forward to a fantastic season with him and his entire technical staff." – Dash Managing Director Brian Ching pic.twitter.com/R4ZQknIOZM
— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) December 11, 2018
The first task of the 2019 season for Clarkson and the Dash will be the NWSL College Draft on January 10 in Chicago. The Dash have six picks in the draft — four in the second round and two in the third round.
This season also presents a challenge as national team players miss games due to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. The Dash have players with national team experience for Women’s World Cup participants South Africa, Canada, England, the United States and Australia.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. Preparing for the draft. Getting ourselves organized. Especially with the World Cup coming up, it’s going to be really important for us to fill out the roster and make sure we’ve got depth and we’re competitive, especially when our national team players are away,” Clarkson said.
“Hopefully they’re away for a long time. They’re on teams that have a chance and could go a long way in the tournament, so we may miss them for a large number of games, but we want them to be successful because it’s a fantastic opportunity to play in the World Cup.”
Clarkson holds a UEFA A License, USC Advanced National Diploma, USSF ‘A’ and National Youth and Academy Director License.