It’s that time of year, with the close of the NWSL season, where teams begin to plan for the next year and start the process of tweaking or rebuilding their rosters. For the Houston Dash, the team’s inaugural year in the league was one filled with ups and downs. It was clear the roster Head Coach Randy Waldrum and staff put together was one they didn’t expect to play like an expansion team and the players delivered. Though the Dash finished ninth in the league, there were shades of a better team lurking.
Several re-signs have already happened for the Dash, as well as a few players let go. Looking at the roster from the end of Houston’s first season, here is a list of players Houston could keep to better the team and some they could let go.
Keepers to build the team
Marissa Diggs, Defender – The rookie defender from the University of Central Florida was a stand out for the Dash in the back line. With injuries and international commitments keeping the defense in limbo for Houston for a majority of the season, Diggs was one player who stepped up. Though she had some expected rookie moments, the Texas native proved tough and that she could be a strong force in the back line. Diggs has more to learn and with that, more to give to Houston. She is a player definitely worth keeping.
Stephanie Ochs, Defender – Not a natural defender, California native Ochs proved she could be just as dangerous in the back as she could be up front. There was hardly a moment in the second half of the season where Ochs was not a key force in a match for Houston. Acquired in a trade with the Washington Spirit, the former University of San Diego player proved she is an important part of the Dash roster. Ochs was constantly keeping pace in defense while being a key element in the Houston offense, getting the ball through the midfield. She was also killer when it came to precise corner kicks. Houston would effectively be shooting themselves in the foot if they lost Ochs, who has become a corner stone to this team.
Kealia Ohai, Forward – During times when it felt like there was hardly any offensive push from the Houston Dash during matches, there was always Kealia Ohai. The second overall selection in the 2014 NWSL draft, the Utah native was pivotal for Houston up front, especially toward the end of the season. Her speed is lethal. Her ability to weave in and around defenders would often provide the jolt of energy the offense would need. Like Diggs, she had her rookie moments, but by the end of the 2014 season, she had shown growth and that she was adjusting well to playing in a professional league. More often than not, if there was a run on goal by the Houston Dash, Ohai was either starting it or on the end of it. She will be a very important piece to Houston’s offense in the future.
Ella Masar, Forward – When it came to offense for Houston, Masar was one of the players who, when on the field, would make a difference. Brought into Houston from Chicago during the expansion draft, she would constantly streak through the midfield, playing balls in toward goal or taking shots herself. Masar is also tough, fighting through defenders and pushing constantly to create a possible goal for the team. A veteran of the league, Masar is important to the team in being a leader on and off the field. Though she struggled with injuries at the end of the season, the Illinois native still has a lot to offer the Dash and would be a great key piece in the offense.
Maybe time to let go?
Kaylyn Kyle, Midfielder – It’s been discussed on Dynamo Theory before whether Kyle was worth the trade early in the season. The debate is still on, but for the most part, Kyle is a player Houston should consider letting go. Through her time with the Dash, her impact has been very minimal. There seemed to be no drive from her to play back and very few instances where she pushed offensively. If she had shown any sort of improvement through her time with the Dash, a case could be made to keep her through the 2015 season. But unlike other players, Kyle showed no real change in her play with the team.
Nina Burger, Forward – The Houston Dash announced Sept 12 they would not be renewing their contract with the Austrian international for 2015. This choice is one beneficial for the team. Burger has an impressive international career to be sure, but that did not translate during her time in Houston. She made 17 appearances for the club and scored four times, but more often than not, opportunities she had were wasted. Whether it was getting used to the style of play in the U.S. or something else, Burger did not have an impressive season. The Dash waiving her for the season opens up the opportunity to bring in another international player who could be just what Houston needs up front or even in defense.
Whitney Engen, Defender – A USWNT player, Engen only appeared 6 times for Houston. She spent most of the 2014 season with European club Tyreso FF playing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. When she finally returned, she and Meghan Klingenberg were called up to the national team for a two-game stretch. This choice isn’t necessarily about a lack in performance, but a lack of her being available to play for Houston. While it looks good on paper to have an U.S. international defender, she can only help if she is on the field. It might be beneficial to give up her spot and bring in another player. However, time can only tell – 2015 could be completely different for Engen.
First seasons for teams are difficult. And while it may seem easy to judge players on performance, it is actually rather difficult. Different circumstances of an inaugural season present unique situations. Looking forward for the Dash, difficult decisions will have to be and have already been made to better the team. The choices above are just opinions. The next season could completely change those opinions.
The bottom line is after their first go in the NWSL league, Waldrum and the coaching staff of the Dash have a better idea of what their team is and how it can be improved. It will be interesting to see how the choices they make change not only the roster, but the performance of the team as a whole in the coming months.