After finishing the 2014 NWSL season at the bottom of the leaderboard, head coach Randy Waldrum and Managing Director Brian Ching have made numerous offseason moves to make the club’s second season a more successful one.
Picking up just 18 points from 24 matches was enough to grant the Houston club the first overall draft pick of the 2015 NWSL College Draft.
With 169 players to choose from, it didn’t take the team’s leaders too long to select two-time Hermann Trophy winner and United States women’s national team midfielder, Morgan Brian.
While Brian wasn’t able to attend the draft, due to national team commitment, a brief video message from Brian flashed after her name was read.
Prior to the draft, the Dash picked up midfielders Carli Lloyd (of the United States), Rosana (of Brazil), Ashley Nick (of the United States) and Rachael Axon (of England) to help link up the play between the defense and forwards—something the team struggled to do last season.
Add Brittany Bock (who played just 23 minutes last season before sustaining an ACL injury) and Brian to that group and the team has a nice midfield base.
Although Waldrum admits that Brian wasn’t necessarily what he needed the most from this draft, he admitted that it’s difficult to pass up on her talent.
“I probably, in all honesty, could’ve used a back or maybe even a forward,” Waldrum said to reporters during the fourth round of the recent draft. “But [Morgan’s] such a special talent. You can’t pass on her.”
Referring to Brian as a “difference-maker,” Waldrum noted that he plans on using her in the attacking midfield role but may have to play around with the team’s shape due to the surplus of attacking players on the team.
The team came into the draft with three selections, the first, 13th and 31st, and things got interesting in the second round (at the 13th overall pick), when a trade between the Portland Thorns, Washington Spirit and the Dash took place.
As the 13th overall pick was being decided, it was announced that the Dash traded the pick and a second round pick in the 2016 draft to the Thorns for a player later to be named.
Moments later, the Thorns then traded that pick and future second round selections in next year’s draft for Jodie Taylor.
While the Dash couldn’t confirm the player they traded for, theories on Twitter started brewing—all of which seemed to point to Thorns forward, Jess McDonald.
Sure enough, the tweets were correct. Just hours after the completion of the draft, the Dash confirmed the team acquired McDonald, who finished last season with 11 goals in 23 matches.
Speaking of the trade, Waldrum noted that the trade was essentially a last-minute happening.
“We got a call last night from Portland [about an interest] in making a trade with us and, of course, we found out it involved Washington in it kind of in this three-way deal,” he said. “I think we all kind of slept on it and felt like it was a really good move for all parties involved [and] we really had no idea it was going to come to fruition until late last night. Early this morning, we didn’t get confirmation until a couple of picks before.”
In the Dash’s third, and final, move of the day, the team selected University of Central Florida defender Carleigh Williams.
In her senior season, the center back led the Knights’ defense to 13 shutouts.
Waldrum spoke highly of his newest addition at the end of the draft.
“She was the [American Athletic] Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Central Florida, so I’m really pleased with the way things worked out for us,” he said.
In addition to draft-day trades and the four midfielders the team has picked up during the offseason, Waldrum and Ching have brought in three defenders: Poliana (of Brazil), Niki Cross (of the United States) and Allysha Chapman (of Canada).
With the Women’s World Cup just months away, many NWSL teams will be hit with slimmer rosters during the tournament. Though Waldrum thinks his team will miss quite a few players, he doesn’t appear to be concerned.
“I think maybe us and Chicago [Red Stars] were hit hardest with the most players leaving for World Cup duty,” he said. “Unfortunately… or fortunately—however you want to look at it—our players come from Brazil, Canada and the U.S., three countries that will probably go real deep in the World Cup, so we’re expecting to not have those players for two to three months. You just try to build as strong as you can to get through that first part of the season.”
Waldrum said he was questioned by many about trading Mexican international Ari Romero to the Spirit in early December for Niki Cross but because of the World Cup, he couldn’t risk too many players being gone.
“At one point, we were going to have as many as 11 players at the World Cup,” Waldrum said. “We couldn’t fill the team of pros so [we] had to make some moves with some players to make sure [we’ve] got a team [during and after the World Cup].”
With many of Waldrum’s players still expected to be called up for this summer’s Women’s World Cup, it’ll be interesting to see if he and Ching have any more shakeups planned before the team kicks off the season on April 10 against the Spirit at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.