All good things come to those who wait. It may have taken over three and a half hours for the Dash to be on the clock in the 2021 NWSL Draft Wednesday night, but by the time they selected forwards Joelle Anderson and Makamae Gomera-Stevens back to back, with the 26th and 27th pick respectively, Houston’s draft was complete in a matter of minutes.
For the Houston Dash, the delay doesn’t end there. Both Anderson and Gomera-Stevens each plan to finish their collegiate career through the 2021 NCAA season. Which means in all likelihood neither player will play a part in the 2021 NWSL season, perhaps not even linking up with the club until January/February 2022.
The current Dash roster has 23 active players excluding defender Annika Schmidt, who was signed two weeks ago from Goteborg in Sweden. At the moment there is little wiggle room for additional signings, especially in forward positions. We could see some further free agent signings/trades before the Challenge Cup is due to kick off the season in April 2021, but that will come at the cost of an active roster spot.
Anderson and Gomera-Stevens concluding their senior years and graduating is the best thing for them and for the Dash. Clarkson experimented little with young players in 2020 and has double downed on backing the side that won the Challenge Cup. Their future is orange is yet to come.
Anderson has spent three seasons at Pepperdine University, scoring 21 goals and tallying 13 assists for the Waves and starting in 40 of 55 appearances. The San Jose, California native was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-West Region First-Team and All WCC first team in 2019 and earned WCC All-Academic and WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll “bronze” honorable mentions. As a freshman, Anderson played alongside Dash cult hero Bri Visalli and made the Top-Drawer Soccer Freshman Best XI Second Team.
As a two sport scholar at Pepperdine, soccer and volleyball, Anderson has what Clarkson desires most: versatility. Hayley Hanson, Christine Nairn and Cece Kizer have all been Clarksonian players because of their ability to play multiple positions. Whilst I don’t see Anderson playing in defense, she does remind me a lot of Kizer who, despite her size, has terrific ball control in tight spaces. A best case scenario sees Anderson’s eye for long range efforts giving Kristie Mewis some competition in attacking midfield.
Gomera-Stevens has started in 52 of 64 appearances at Washington State University and scored nine goals, four of which were game-winners, while providing eight assists. The Kapolei, Hawaii native became the first player in Cougars history to be called into a U.S. Women’s Senior National Team Camp in December of 2019.
Despite her draft-mate being the one who played with Bri Visalli, Gomera-Stevens actually feels more like the logical alternate in that defensive winger/attacker role. Her anticipation and pressing ability is a perfect match for Houston’s style of play. Being first to the ball is not so much an option for Gomera-Stevens but a compulsion. Playing behind 2019 All-American Morgan Weaver at Washington State, means that Gomera-Stevens hasn’t felt the pressure of being the key goal scorer. Her willingness to commit to others’ skill sets is what will give her importance as a part of the Dash collective.
James Clarkson: “My staff, Brendan and Twila, have put in a lot of effort—did a lot of research, talked to a lot of coaches. They are two players we thought would go much higher. We managed to get two outstanding picks despite picking 26th and 27th. We think they’ve got massive upside and they can really add depth to us in the midfield and on the front line.”
Joelle Anderson: “So thankful for this opportunity and everyone who has helped me get here. Can’t wait to start this new chapter! See you soon H-town”