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Dash sign free agent Deneisha Blackwood

The Jamaican International will add depth to the Houston defense

Orlando Pride

The Houston Dash announced on Tuesday that Deneisha Blackwood has signed a one-year contract for the duration of the 2021 NWSL season, with the Dash holding an option to extend the contract through 2022.

The former Orlando Pride player made four appearances in the 2020 NWSL Fall Series. After initially making her first two appearances off the bench for Orlando, she went on to start the final two matches of the season as a left sided midfielder/forward.

However, Blackwood did play as a defender for the first half of last season. She spent the beginning of her first season as a professional at Slavia Prague, in the Czech Republic. There she won the Czech league title. The indomitable Slavia won every single match that they played. Although the Czech season was cut short in March 2020, due to COVID-19, Blackwood still featured in nine of the 13 matches.

Whilst in Europe she was also able to compete in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Slavia reached the Round of 16 before being knocked out by Arsenal, of the WSL, 13-2 on aggregate over the two matches. Blackwood featured in the defense throughout.

At the international level, Blackwood has represented Jamaica since 2011 when she represented the Reggae Girlz at the U-17 level. Her senior debut came at the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship Qualifiers and qualified for the 2019 FIFA World Cup with the Jamaican squad. At the World Cup, Blackwood played every minute for Jamaica in the team’s three games against Australia, Brazil and Italy. She has scored three goals for Jamaica’s senior team.

What They Said

James Clarkson: “We are pleased to add Deneisha to the squad and help her fulfill her full potential. She adds depth to our left side and will fit well with the style of play.”

Daneisha Blackwood: “I am very humbled and honored to be a part of this team. With all the uncertainty in the world today, my heart is full for this opportunity with the Dash. This team’s achievements over the years have been progressing tremendously and I can’t wait to compete with my new teammates and continue this journey. I’m excited and waiting for this season to start to represent my family, country and the Houston fans as best as I can.”

Opinion

The last defender Clarkson signed, in the 2020 season, was Erin Simon. A versatile defender, Simon could play anywhere along the back line. She featured in six out of a possible 11 games in 2020. Since Simon was drafted by Racing Louisville in the Expansion Draft back in November 2020, Clarkson will have targeted a player, like Blackwood, that can be a similarly adaptable replacement.

Should the 2020 Olympics go ahead, the Dash will be without stalwart left back Allysha Chapman for at least a month. Along with the addition of Annika Schimdt, another defender signed on a free transfer from Swedish side Goteborg last month, Clarkson has at the very least given himself cover for any absences due to tournaments or injury. Prior to the signings of Blackwood and Schmidt the Dash had an alarming total of four designated defenders on their 23 player roster.

Away from the defense, Blackwood’s history as forward and midfielder in college, will give her a more dynamic edge to her “listed” position as left sided outside back. She spent two years at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas at the NJCAA level from 2015 to 2016. There she scored an outlandish 36 goals in 32 appearances, earning two-time All-American accolades. After unparalleled success in Texas, Blackwood then transferred to West Florida University in 2017, scoring 13 goals in 31 appearances, and earning a spot in the All-Gulf South Conference second team.

In two seasons under Clarkson, the Dash have not often utilized their full backs as a huge part of their attacking tactics, but perhaps Blackwood is a signal that he is ready to change their approach.