Here we go again. The Houston Dash have never made the NWSL playoffs, Now we are at a point in the season following the performance against Racing Louisville FC where the questioning begins. Are the Houston Dash playoff pretenders or contenders?
It's been eight years and counting now that the Houston Dash fans have been waiting on the team to deliver the franchise's first playoff berth. In 2018, with six games left, the Dash found a way to lose to the then Utah Royals costing them a berth in their first realistic moment. Each season since they have gotten closer on the quest and each time they have squandered opportunities to control their own playoff fate. Will this season be any different?
The optimistic answer is yes , 2022 will be the season that the Dash live up to the expectations. Former team captain Rachel Daly said before the game that she is leaving this team in a better spot then when she arrived in 2016. And she is right. In the past, the team has brought in talented players read Carli Lloyd and Nina Burger but neither had the chemistry to lift the team to greater heights. Over the last few years, the organization has done a better job of players who fit in with the players already here. Read Shea Groom, Bri Visali, Maria Sanchez, Katie Naughton, Kristi Mewis etc. The team has talent and chemistry, two key ingredients for a winner.
Second, the team has a coaching staff on par with the best in the business. Current interim head coach Juan Carlos Amoros is a proven winner while Sarah Lowdon now first assistant demonstrated the mettle and tenacity to bring out the best in her players during her time as interim head coach. The work of high performance coach Corey Ashe cannot be overlooked either. A total staff on the same page.
Friday night's draw was more like a blip on the radar despite being a disappointment. Houston has had just a couple this season and they have rebounded quickly from each one. They are tied for the most wins in the league, the second most prolific offensive team and fifth n defense. Co-captain Katie Naughton has supplied the cohesiveness necessary for a winner while others like ALlysha Chapman provide outside toughness and containment. It is a team built to win.
Finally, the team knows how to close out games. Friday night against Racing Louisville was a prime example. They didn't allow the frustrations in the offensive third to carry over to the defensive third. They stayed focused and closed with a clean sheet. Since losing 1-0 in Orlando on July 8th (their only road loss of the year), they have scored six second half goals to put teams away.
"Everyone has been working so
hard and our goal is to make the playoffs—be the first Houston Dash team to do so," explained Dash co-captain Katie Naughton. "But, there is no way
that we are going to let the foot off the gas pedal. So, we are really striving to break records and make
history here and even though we are sitting at second place that is not where we want to be. We want
to be at the top and we want to really show that we deserve to be at the top."
Houston will be scoreboard watching to see if the playoff berths become more of a logjam or they maintain their slim breathing room. Currently, the Dash sit tied for second three points out of first. Two points back of Houston is Chicago in the final spot while Kansas City is just a point behind them and OL Reign a point behind them. With seven games remaining, the franchise is in control of its own destiny. Wednesday night, they get to show once again why they are contenders and not pretenders.