The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) begins their 5th season this weekend. A version of a Women’s professional league has played episodically in the United States since 2001, though this league appears to have a stability the two previous incarnations lacked. The NWSL now consists of ten teams, each of whom will play a 24-game regular season from April to September of this year. Four teams enter the post-season playoffs, leading to a Championship Game to be played in October at a predetermined location. Last season the Western New York Flash beat the Washington Spirit on penalties to win the 2016 NWSL Championship at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
The Houston Dash, who are the only Texas-based team in the league, entered the NWSL prior to the 2014 season. They have not made the playoffs since they entered the league, finishing in 8th place last season. At one point last year, the Dash lost six consecutive 1-0 games. They enter the season with some momentum, however, as the Dash led the league in scoring over the last 10 games of the season.
Coach Randy Waldrum focused on improving the defense during the offseason, hoping to improve on the 29 goals they allowed last season, 4th worst in the league. Two new international defenders were brought in, Brazilian Bruna Benites and South African Janine Van Wyk (who both Captained their National sides at the last Olympics), to shore things up on the back line.
The team is led by United States Internationals Kealia Ohai (led the team with 11 goals last year-tied for the league lead) and midfielder Morgan Brian. Brian is injured and will likely miss the opening game this Saturday. Another U.S. International, iconic midfielder Carli Lloyd, is currently playing in Europe for Manchester City. The plan is for her to rejoin the Dash in June at the end of the European season. Because player salaries of national team players are supported financially by both the U.S. and Canadian Soccer Federations, national team players of their countries are allocated to teams by the respective federations. Brian and Lloyd were allocated to the Dash by the U.S. Federation and Dash players Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince are being subsidized by the Canadian Federation for 2017.
The Dash will attempt to improve on their poor 2016 home record (4-4-2) when they open the season against the Chicago Red Stars at 1 p.m. this Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.