The Houston Dash seeks to compete for the NWSL title in 2023 after the franchise experienced a breakthrough season last year. The Dash parlayed a potent offense, which scored 35 goals (the third-most in the league), and a strong defense anchored by goalkeeper Jane Campbell into a fourth-place regular season finish. The team earned its first playoff appearance since its launch in 2014 but lost 2-1 to the Kansas City Current in the quarterfinal round in front of its largest ever home crowd.
The Dash had an interim head coach for the majority of last season following the suspension and subsequent non-renewal of former coach James Clarkson's contract. He was one of the names implicated in the league’s investigation into various allegations of workplace discrimination and emotional misconduct.
The club named longtime OL Reign assistant coach Sam Laity as the Dash’s new head coach. He will have support from general manager Alex Singer as well as assistant coach Sarah Lowdon and goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson. Both coaches signed new contracts last month with Lowdon rewarded for the work she did last season when she served as the acting head coach for the first eight games.
Houston then went to work strengthening and refreshing its roster this offseason, re-signing a lot of key players and bringing in new players from other clubs.
Left-back Allysha Chapman and midfielder Sophie Schmidt, multi-year starters for the Dash and the Canadian women’s soccer national team, were re-signed to one- and two-year contracts respectively. The Dash also inked forward Michelle Alozie (Nigerian International) and defender Natalie Jacobs to contracts through the 2024 season. Fellow defender Ally Prisock received a two-year contract after starting every game for the Dash last year; while defender Annika Creel, forward Michaela Abam and midfielders Emily Curran, Kelcie Hedge, Makamae Gomera-Stevens and Elizabeth Eddy received one-year contracts.
Regarding outside additions, the Dash improved its goalkeeper depth by signing Devon Kerr, a 25-year-old Canadian goalkeeper out of Ohio State. Kerr began her NWSL career with the Dash in 2019 before signing with the Washington Spirit, with whom she made her professional debut in its April 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup match against the Orlando Pride. The Dash also improved its midfield, signing free agent midfielder Havana Solaun to a two-year contract. The well-traveled Jamaican international played with the North Carolina Courage the past two years.
In 2022, England international Ebony Salmon (22) led the team in scoring with nine goals. This year, she and Ryan Gareis, who improved throughout her rookie season and recently landed a three-year contract extension, will be joined in the attack by last year’s rookie sensation. Diana Ordonez. The Dash swung a pre-draft trade to land the 30th pick in 2023’s draft and the Mexican senior international from the Courage in exchange for the eighth pick, $100,000 in allocation money, a 2024 first-round pick, and an international roster spot in 2023. Ordonez scored 11 goals last season to set the NWSL rookie record, signed a three-year contract extension with her new team.
She is reunited with former University of Virginia teammate Courtney Petersen, an attacking left back acquired from the Orlando Pride along with Orlando’s third-round pick in 2024 in exchange for $65,000 of allocation money and up to $25,000 in incentive money. The 25-year-old Michigan product made 41 appearances for the Pride.
Ordonez is not the only new Texas native on the Dash as the fast-rising team signed attacking midfielder Barbara Olivieri to a one-year contract with an option for 2024. Olivieri played two years at Texas A&M, scoring 13 goals and winning SEC Freshman of the Year in 2020. She represents Venezuela in international competition and last year played with Liga MX Femenil club Monterrey.
In addition,the Dash made four selections in the 2023 draft. With the 20th pick, the team selected midfielder Sophie Hirst, who accumulated 10 goals and 12 assists in 60 appearances at Harvard. Defender Jyllissa Harris (South Carolina) was chosen two picks later. She set an NCAA record for the most minutes played (9,395) at the Division 1 level. In the third round, Houston wrapped up its draft with the selections of defenders Lindsi Jennings (Louisiana State University) and Madelyn Desiano (UCLA).
To make space for these new acquisitions, 19-year-old Argentinian forward Paulina Gramaglia is spending 2023 on loan at Brazilian club Red Bull Bragantino. The Dash did not pick up French forward Valerie Gauvin’s contract option, and Cali Farquharson remains a free agent. Goalkeeper Lindsey Harris and midfielders Tierrny Wiltshire and Bri Visalli will not be on the team going forward.
At the start of March, the Dash will go to San Diego to practice and scrimmage against the San Diego Wave and Kansas City Current. Then, on March 11, the Dash is set to scrimmage against Texas Christian University. It won’t be fully healthy to open training as Annika Creel, Kelcie Hedge, Makamae Gomera-Stevens, Nichelle Prince and Ella Dederick are still recovering from season-ending injuries.
“Our trip to California will provide our team with a change of scenery after several weeks of hard work at Houston Sports Park,” Dash general manager Alex Singer said. “Playing against league opponents and some of the league's best sides gets us highly competitive matches and will help us better prepare for the start of the regular season.”
Houston Dash Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell, Ella Dederick (season-ending injury), Devon Kerr
DEFENDERS (6): Allysha Chapman, Annika Creel (season-ending injury), Caprice Dydasco, Natalie Jacobs, Katie Lind, Ally Prisock
MIDFIELDERS (9): Emily Curran, Elizabeth Eddy, Shea Groom, Makamae Gomera-Stevens (season-ending injury), Kelcie Hedge (season-ending injury), Sophie Schmidt, Havana Solaun (NC Courage), Marisa Viggiano, Barbara Olivieri (Monterrey, Mexico).
FORWARDS (9): Michaela Abam, Michelle Alozie, Joelle Anderson, Ryan Garies, Diana Ordonez (NC Courage), Nichelle Prince (season-ending injury), Ebony Salmon, María Sánchez, Cameron Tucker.
On loan: Paulina Gramaglia (Red Bull Bragantino, Brazil).