NWSL Draft – What They Need – Houston Dash

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In a nutshell:

The trade for Carli Lloyd and all but certain drafting of Morgan Brian should turn the attacking midfield into the strongest part of the team instead of one of its biggest liabilities, while the midfield as a whole should shine if Brittany Bock can finally stay healthy. But the back four and frontline are each arguably the worst unit in the league and in need of some serious fortification which may be beyond just this draft.

Biggest needs: CB, CF, LF, backup GK, RB

GK – *Henninger, (McLeod)

It’s clearly a now or never situation for Bianca Henninger, as the trusted backup finally gets her chance to shine in an extended period as a club’s starter. The Next Big Thing a while back but has had to wait for opportunities while serving as the backup to both Nicole Barnhart and Erin McLeod. But with McLeod likely to miss most of the season on international duty with Canada, Henninger will have every opportunity to prove she can shine as a #1. A good showing could also get her back in the mix with the USWNT, where she’s slid down the pecking order with limited opportunity.

The situation behind her is up in the air until McLeod returns later in the season. While Houston does have some later draft picks to work with, there are gaping holes elsewhere to fill that might take precedent. That in mind, the Dash might have to pluck someone from open tryouts or an undrafted free agent. Not exactly a reassuring thought given the defense in front of her.

DEF – Diggs, (Klingenberg), *Ochs, (Sesselmann), *Cross, (*Poliana)

On paper, this might be the worst defense in the league. Already flooded with players likely to be missing for the WWC, Houston jettisoned Whitney Engen as a makeweight in the trade to bring Carli Lloyd to town, while Ari Romero was sent to Washington in a deal that saw Niki Cross move the other way. Romero was made expendable by the acquisition of Brazilian international right-back Poliana, but it seems a lateral move on paper, as Romero had shown as much potential as anyone on the Dash backline last season. While Romero would’ve likely missed a chunk of the season with Mexico, so will Poliana in all likelihood, which doesn’t exactly solve Houston’s initial problem. Neither too will losing Meghan Klingenberg for much of the season if she makes the U.S. WWC roster. The absences could mean that Houston may be down to three true veteran defenders for a chunk of the season.

Calling most of those defenders “veterans” is a stretch too. Marissa Diggs is starting just her second season in the league, while Stephanie Ochs is still green at full-back after being moved there in the middle of last season. Both are likely to be pressed into action early and often this year, though you suspect Ochs may be called upon in a more attacking role when Klingenberg is here. Cross didn’t exactly pull up trees in Washington, but her experience may be valuable for the Dash considering the shuffling. Brittany Bock might be needed as a center-back as well if the club can find a solution at defensive midfield.

A wild card is Lauren Sesselmann, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury. But she’s also thirty and coming off said serious injury while also likely being in the frame for the Women’s World Cup, meaning she’ll probably miss the majority of the season at any rate. If healthy and in Houston, she could help stabilize the center of defense.

The Dash need defensive help in a serious way, most notably at center-back, though another right-back may also be a priority for when Poliana is gone.

MF – *Bock, Jackson, (Kyle), McFarlane, *Nick, (Noyola), (Lloyd), *Axon, (*Rosana)

Houston aren’t starved for options, especially considering they’ll be adding Morgan Brian at 9:30 AM EST on Friday. The club’s attacking problems in midfield should be a thing of the past with Brian and Carli Lloyd teaming up when they aren’t on international duty. There are massive questions whether they can co-exist with both so demanding of the ball. Neither is exactly the most acute defender either, meaning the Dash are going to need a great stopper to play behind the duo so they don’t get savaged on the break by teams flooding up the middle on the counter. There are questions as to what’s going to happen when Lloyd and Brian aren’t with the club. In fact, the team looks pretty short on options with that duo and Kaylyn Kyle likely to miss out, with Rosana potentially gone too for Brazil, though those odds seem to be decreasing.

The prominent option seems to be Jordan Jackson, who impressed when she was on the pitch last season, which wasn’t often enough for Houston’s tastes in all probability. Otherwise? It’s a big question. Teresa Noyola is likely to be with Mexico at the WWC herself, while Rosana is more of a winger. That puts a lot of pressure on Jackson’s shoulders when the club will be shorthanded.

There are a lot of bodies to fill the defensive midfield slot, but you wonder how many of them are actually up to the task. Brittany Bock will get a long look if she’s healthy, and she certainly hasn’t been thus far in NWSL. Even if she is, you wonder how much those injuries have taken out of her after a promising start to her pro career. Bock may also be needed as an option at center-back given the state of the defense. Kyle figures to be in the mix late in the season as well, though given the record of teams with her in the lineup, you question what value she’ll bring to the Dash.

New acquisitions Ashley Nick and Rachel Axon will also battle for time, most likely when the international dutied players are away. Nick was a fairly solid option for SBFC last season but may see her minutes reduced her if Bock is healthy, while Axon is an unknown commodity at this level despite playing in England and in college on these shores with Oregon State previously. Kelly McFarlane was a nice story sticking on the roster to the end of the season but might get squeezed out in the numbers game.

Given needs elsewhere, I wouldn’t expect too many midfielders being drafted by the Dash.

FW – *Henderson, Masar, *McCarty, Ohai

It goes without saying that the Dash need serious help on the frontline. Kealia Ohai showed flashes of potential as a rookie, but there’s no way she’s going to carry an offense by herself at this level, and that was especially problematic, as she had a roving cerberus of ineptitude supporting her on the frontline. Austrian flop Nina Burger is gone, but the club seems to be keeping the faith in large part with the misfits who produced so little last year for the team in attack.

Melissa Henderson, Ella Masar, and Tiffany McCarty have combined for twelve goals in a hundred ten NWSL matches between them, with Henderson the most risible of the trio, having not scored in thirty-one regular season appearances. She’s surely running out of chances to impress at this level, while the aging Ella Masar looks to be in decline full stop after a brief breakthrough in WPS. McCarty still has some upside you’d think, but she’s also been maddeningly inconsistent through her NWSL career.

The club has to figure that they’ll get some degree of scoring for Carli Lloyd and, presumably, Morgan Brian when they aren’t on international duty, but the offense is still going to be hobbled by the frontline’s woes. Brazilian Rosana may be needed for additional support, but she’s thirty-two and may yet be in the frame for a potential WWC roster spot. Even if she misses out, how she holds up in the Houston heat will be a big question mark.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Chris Henderson.

One thought on “NWSL Draft – What They Need – Houston Dash

  1. VaFan

    Thanks again for this and the other recent work you have been putting out there.
    One factor to consider in addition to the others you mention is that Brian will almost certainly make the Dash front line better, at least in terms of scoring numbers. Developing the on-field chemistry to make that work will be hampered by the WC absences, but Moe is always looking to create and she and Ohai already have some experience together. I would not be surprised if Ohai has a breakout year.


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