With their first year solidly in the books, the Houston Dash will open up the season at home on Friday when the Dash host the Washington Spirit. The Dash were narrowly beaten in their season opener against the Thorns last season. The club struggled to find the back of the net all year and scored a league-low 23 goals on the season. This year, head coach Randy Waldrum will have a different obstacle – managing his squad around the World Cup call-ups that could take up to five starters.
Carli Lloyd – The Dash acquired Lloyd in October and she will add an offensive punch to the middle of the field for Houston, when she is able to be on the field for the Dash. Lloyd scored eight goals and added five assists for the Flash last year. She has proven on the international stage that she can score in the big moments and the Dash will hope for some of that magic when she returns to Houston.
Morgan Brian – The Dash drafted Brian as the top pick in January’s draft. The Virginia product has been playing with Lloyd the past several months with the U.S. women, which should bode well for Houston. Like Lloyd, she will miss a significant chunk of the season for the World Cup.
Rachael Axon – The English attacker will bring experience to the Dash and will help solidify a midfield with several moving parts. She will also not be taking part in the World Cup so the Dash will have her for the entire season.
Stephanie Roche – The Irish striker rose to fame earlier this year when she finished as the runner up for the 2014 FIFA Puskás Award. Roche will be a good strike partner for Kealia Ohai (drafted No. 2 overall last year) and could help provide attacking power.
Jessica McDonald – The Dash acquired McDonald in a three-way trade on draft day that involved Portland, Houston and Washington. McDonald had a breakout year for Portland in 2014, scoring 11 goals and finishing as the only double-digit scorer in the Rose City. She spent the offseason in Europe and has had some paperwork issues in order to play for the Dash. Once that is sorted out, the combination of McDonald, Roche and Ohai could be dangerous.
Whitney Engen – Engen was a rock on the back line once she got to Houston for the final two months of the season, starting and playing in 10 matches for the Dash. But, with Engen in line for a World Cup roster spot, the Dash likely would have been missing her for a large chunk of the season. Her departure allows for Waldrum’s club to be missing one less face during the tournament.
Becky Edwards – Edwards was solid for the Dash last season, playing in all but one match on the year, logging 2,070 minutes after an ACL tear derailed her 2013 season. The Dash dealt both Edwards and Engen to the Flash for Lloyd.
Arianna Romero – Romero played 21 matches, starting 17 of them. She became a fan favorite for the Dash but was dealt to the Spirit prior to the draft. Mexican coach Leonardo Cuellar has indicated that none of the Mexican players will join NWSL clubs until after the World Cup and Pan American Games at the end of July. With the missing faces adding up quickly, Waldrum traded her for Niki Cross, who will be with the team through the World Cup.
Overview of Last Season:
The Dash finished the year 5-16-3 and struggled mightily to score goals, averaging less than a goal per game. It was a young roster that saw Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann tear her ACL while she was with Canada at the Cyprus Cup prior to the season and midfielder Brittany Bock suffer a torn ACL in the opening 20 minutes of the season opener. Tiffany McCarty, Jordan Jackson and Ohai all showed a lot of promise, totaling 10 of the Dash’s 23 goals.
World Cup Impact:
Six players are expected to miss a large chunk of the season due to this summer’s Women’s World Cup: Carli Lloyd (United States), Morgan Brian (United States), Meghan Klingenberg (United States), Allysha Chapman (Canada), Erin McCleod (Canada) and Lauren Sesselmann (Canada). While the Dash were unable to find the back of the net for much of last year – they were shutout 10 times and scored multiple goals in just six matches – the bigger questions will come defensively. The Dash list seven defenders with two of them being Axon (listed as a midfielder on the Houston roster page) and forward Ella Masar. Masar has played at right back throughout the preseason matches, which will give Waldrum an additional option either up top or on the backline during the World Cup.