Each day leading up to the start of the season, we’ll take a look at what 2017 has in store for two teams.
Monday: Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars
Tuesday: Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City
Wednesday: Seattle Reign FC and Sky Blue FC
Thursday: Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage
Friday: Portland Thorns FC and Orlando Pride
Perhaps no other club in the league will come into 2017 as eager as the Houston Dash to see what’s in store for the new season. After suffering through an infuriating run of six-straight 1-0 losses last year the Dash enjoyed an encouraging second half of the season as they scored the most goals in the league over the final 10 games of 2016. Will they able to produce the same form over the course of an entire season?
2016 totals (with rank)
Overall record: 6-10-4, 22 pts (8th place)
Goals for: 29 (tied for 4th)
Goals against: 29 (7th)
Home record: 4-4-2 (7th)
Away record: 2-6-2 (8th)
Kealia Ohai (11 goals, 4 assists)
Morgan Brian (13 appearances, 1,001 minutes)
Rachel Daly (4 goals, 4 assists)
Andressa (Goal, assist)
Janine Beckie (3 goals, 2 goals)
With U.S. international and 2016 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd not due back from her spell with English club Manchester City until June, forward Kealia Ohai will be expected to shoulder much of the offensive load during the early part of the year.
Ohai put together one of the best stretches in league history as she scored all 11 of her goals last season over the final 10 games of the 2016 campaign. She finished tied with 2016 NWSL MVP Lynn Williams for the most goals in the league, only missing out on the Golden Boot by one assist and was the driving force behind Houston having the No. 1 offense in the league during the second half of the 2016 season.
The Dash will also be looking to U.S. international Morgan Brian to continue to utilize her steady play in midfield as well as hoping for sophomore surges from attacking players Rachel Daly and Janine Beckie as the club looks to improve in several areas – most notably their away form, which was third-worst in the NWSL last year.
Bruna Benites (Avaldsnes IL)
Janine Van Wyk (JVW FC)
The Dash ranked No. 7 in the league last season on defense, allowing 29 goals in 20 games. Houston coach Randy Waldrum set about addressing the concerns at the back by bringing in Brazil international defender Bruna Benites and South Africa international defender Janine Van Wyk.
Both featured for their countries at the 2016 Rio Olympics and in fact they met on the field at the Summer Games when each captained their country as Brazil and South Africa played to a scoreless draw in Rio de Janeiro in the group stage of the tournament.
Round 2, 15th overall: Jane Campbell (GK, Stanford)
Round 3, 28th overall: Nichelle Prince (F/M, Ohio State)
Round 4, 33rd overall: Erin Smith (D, Rutgers)
The Dash made a big splash in the 2017 NWSL College Draft despite making just three selections. Houston used the No. 15 overall pick to snag U.S. international goalkeeper Jane Campbell out of Stanford and then was able to turn around and pick up Canada international Nichelle Prince with the No. 28 draft choice.
The Campbell pick drew the attention of many around the league as the Dash already boasted substantial depth at the goalkeeping position in Lydia Williams and Bianca Henninger, but the club felt the chance to get one of the best young goalkeepers in the country was an opportunity too good to pass up.