Canadian international Kaylyn Kyle came to the Houston Dash on April 29, 2014, and the excitement over the midfielder's arrival seemed valid. Her professional career includes clocking 21 games in 2013 for the Seattle Reign FC where she scored three goals on six shots on goal, including a game winner, and starting two games of the regular season for the Boston Breakers. She had also played six seasons for the the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL W-League.
Her international career is impressive as well. With the Canadian Women's National Team, Kyle has 79 caps, including 51 starts. In that time, she had scored five international goals for the senior team. When she was traded for defender Nikki Washington, Head Coach Randy Waldrum said, "Kaylyn is clearly going to make our team better. She has all the qualities I’m looking for in a central midfield player. She has great vision, she’s technical and composed with the ball, she's tough and brings a physical presence to our midfield. She has a wealth of experience that our young team needs. I’m really excited to have Kaylyn become part of the Dash family."
So now that Kyle has been with the Dash for a month, appearing in six matches, has the trade been worth it?
No doubt, Kyle can be a very effective player. When she is on her game, movement through the midfield can be great for the Dash. However, when it comes to possession and effectiveness in the midfield for Houston, there's been more presence from defender Arianna Romero than from Kyle.
Waldrum was also hoping Kyle would bring "great vision" as she is "technical and composed with the ball." So far, it must be said, she only seems composed with the ball if she is moving forward. It's there that Kyle has truly looked impressive. She's made runs on goal and accurate passes, even logging an assist against the Washington Spirit.
However, getting Kyle to track back to help defense is like trying to pull teeth. She often gives up on a run, opting to let the defense scramble to break down a play. When she actually does come back to help, her clearances are sloppy at best and down right scary at worst. There's been one too many times when she's handed the ball right back to the opposing team or nearly launched the ball back toward keeper Erin McLeod herself.
In essence, Kyle seems to act as if pushing forward is her main priority. Making runs on goal? Kyle is strong, resilient and fights defenders for her shot or for her pass. Track back? That's a different story. It's almost as if asking her to help defend is pushing her too much and she adopts a very nonchalant attitude about it. Dash forward Ella Masar is more prone to sprint down the flank and stop an opposing play than Kyle is.
With a very young defense - made up of more than a few players who are in defensive positions for the first time - Kyle must realize that she needs to track back when possible. It's more feasible for her as a midfielder than for Masar as a forward.
Perhaps her endurance isn't as up to par as Masar or Romero. After six matches, that's a stretch, considering she's played 155 minutes for Boston in their first two regular season games and has clocked more than that in the past month with Houston. Could there be some chemistry issue between other players? Nothing of the sort has been seen thus far. In the end, it really comes down to the attitude of the individual player. Whatever Kyle has against being a help to the defense, she must put it behind her to help the Dash succeed.
Victory for the team doesn't just come from offensive plays, they come from defensive ones as well. To be instrumental for the Dash and to fulfill the goals Waldrum has laid out before her when he brought her on, Kyle needs to step it up.