Record: 6-8-6, 24 points
After a genuinely difficult first season for the Dash, hope sprung anew heading into their second NWSL season. There were high expectations and even talk of perhaps pushing for that final playoff spot. It didn’t happen, and despite the acquisition of some serious star power, the Dash fell short. That being said, the Dash did improve quite a bit, and as a result, moved up four spots in the final standings from their inaugural season to finish smack dab in the middle of the NWSL table in fifth place. All things considered, there were serious improvements for the Dash across the field.
The real issue with the 2015 season, though, was the World Cup. The Dash lost several key players to the tourney up north, and there was a serious lack of depth to fill the giant holes those players left, which decimated any hint of a legitimate offense for the Dash. The Dash finished the season second-to-last in the league in goals scored with 21. When you consider the defense allowed 24 goals, good for fourth best in the league, and that the Olympics won’t cause as much of an issue as the World Cup, expectations are running high for the Dash in 2016.
Losses and Additions
There have been a lot of moving pieces for the Dash this offseason, and the team on the field will be different than the squad we saw suit up last season. The McLeods have taken their talents to Europe, Niki Cross is enjoying retirement, Jess McDonald and Tiff McCarty have been traded away, and Stephanie Roche… well, Roche just didn’t pan out for the Dash. I think that’s everyone? Oh wait, there were also the countless players that stepped in on a week-to-week basis for the Dash who have now been released by the club; bit of a revolving door down in Southeast Texas. We also can’t forget the loss of essentially all of the Dash’s 2017 draft picks. Those draft picks were used to bring in some additions for a team that is in “playoffs or bust” mode. Let’s welcome Amber Brooks, Becca Moros, Poliana, Lydia Williams, Denise O’Sullivan, and Chioma Ubogagu, and welcome back Melissa Henderson after the shortest retirement ever. The Dash didn’t lose any 2016 draft picks and picked up Cari Roccaro, Janine Beckie, and Rachel Daly. That’s a lot of new shining faces in Houston.
With Erin McLeod gone it seemed for a while Bianca Henninger would be starting in goal for the Dash. At one point Randy Waldrum even said he was comfortable with Henninger as their No. 1. Now, however, Henninger has some competition, as the Dash signed Australian national teamer Lydia Williams. Williams has the edge to be the starter, but when she’s gone for the Olympics Henninger will do a more than capable job.
Defensively and in the midfield things could take a hit come Olympic time, but until then the Dash have a rather experienced backline with Ellie Brush, Allysha Chapman, Becca Moros, Stephanie Ochs, and draft pick Cari Roccaro once she fully recovers from knee surgery. How fast Roccaro recovers and how fast she adjusts to playing at a professional level could determine the level of success this back line has in 2016.
In the midfield Amber Brooks is shaping up as a big get for the Dash, and could be holding things down as a starter. Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian will play huge roles until national team duty calls, and Andressa will certainly see some time as well. Considering the sheer amount of forwards this team has, it’s not out of the world to see a forward drop back into the midfield during the season.
Kealia Ohai has yet to truly have a breakout season, and expectations are high for her this season. She’ll have a chance to pair up with former U.S. U-20 teammate Chioma Ubogagu, and give defenders across the NWSL nightmares with their speed. There’s also rookies Janine Beckie and Rachel Daly, who will no doubt be eager to prove themselves at this level, and veterans Denise O’Sullivan and Melissa Henderson are options as well.
Off the Field
Not much change on this front. Randy Waldrum is still the head honcho, and really has done a good job building this roster from the ground up since day one. The Dash will still be playing their home games at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston, which more than likely means attendance will still look rather sparse on your YouTube stream. However, the Dash remain one of the five NWSL teams to have a grass home field. The one change that did occur off the field was that former Dynamo, BBVA Compass Stadium, and Dash minority owner Gabriel Brener became the new majority owner.
The It Factor
Finishing chances. The Dash had one of the worst offenses in the league last season, scoring the second to least number of goals in the league. The Dash only beat out the Breakers, who were the only team to have less than 100 shots on goal in the 2015 NWSL season. While the Dash did have more than 100 SOG on the season, they didn’t do much with them. Houston tied with Boston as the worst in the league on converting shots on goals into actual goals, with just 20% of their shots on goal resulting in a point on the scoreboard. Expectations are high for the potential the Ohai and Ubogagu partnership brings; however, the two have combined for just 15 total goals in their professional careers. That’s how many goals Crystal Dunn had all of last season, and one less than Kim Little had in all of 2014. Then there’s the question of how fast rookies Beckie and Daly transition to playing at a professional level, and how O’Sullivan handles the transition to the NWSL. Sure, we all know Carli Lloyd will do everything in her power to put points on the board, but someone else has to step up and put the ball in the back of the net if the Dash are to be successful this season.
2016 Opening Day Roster
19 of 20 spots filled:
- Bianca Henninger
- Lydia Williams
- Ellie Brush (International Player, Australia)
- Allysha Chapman (Federation Player, Canada)
- Rebecca Moros
- Stephanie Ochs
- Poliana (International Player, Brazil)
- Cari Roccaro*
- Andressa (International Player, Brazil)
- Morgan Brian (Federation Player, USA)
- Amber Brooks
- Carli Lloyd (Federation Player, USA)
- Cami Privett
- Janine Beckie* (Federation Player, Canada)
- Rachel Daly* (International Player, England)
- Melissa Henderson
- Kealia Ohai
- Denise O’Sullivan** (International Player, Ireland)
- Chioma Ubogagu
* 2016 NWSL College Draft pick
** Pending ITC and P1-Visa