Until recently, Houston was sorely lacking in women’s professional sports teams. But the elite athletes on the roster of the Houston Dash are making up for it in strides … up and down the field at BBVA Compass Stadium.
A new addition to the professional Houston sports world, the Houston Dash kicked off their inaugural season in April of 2014. Just over a year later, the team is sending three athletes to the U.S. World Cup team and three to the Canadian World Cup team. And they boast Stephanie Roche on their current roster, a player who was the first female to be nominated for the prestigious 2014 FIFA Puskas Award for Goal of the Year.
“It’s high-class soccer,” says Houston Dash representative Ben Crook. “Outside of the international games, the World Cup and the Olympics, this is the best you’re going to get for women’s soccer.”
Not only do the Dash provide an avenue to cheer on some of the most talented female athletes in the world, they provide an affordable way to do so. Season ticket packages that include all 10 home games start at a jaw-dropping $99. Individual tickets range from $15 for general admission seats to $34 for presidents club level seats. Comparatively, Dynamo ticket prices range from $24 for general admission to $100 for VIP-level spots.
“I grew up in a family of seven kids, so it was always tough for us to go out to sporting events, because it was a lot of money,” says Crook. “But for a Dash game, you can actually take the family out for a decent price, no matter what size.”
Adding to the value, all of the open seats for the Dash are close to the field. This is even more exciting after home games when the athletes make it a point to visit personally with fans, signing autographs around the stadium — whether or not they’ve won.
“Their personalities are so outgoing,” says Crook. “Our players are so giving to their fans and the community that you actually have a personal connection with the players. They want fans to know that they’re appreciated.”
That appreciation continues to help the team build a loyal following as well as a general awareness of the their existence. The Dash’s affiliation with the Houston Dynamo does help in that regard, though they are an entire entity unto themselves with a full 20-game season, 10 home games and an independent governing league called the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
Currently, games are played against eight worthy NWSL opponents each season from Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Portland, Seattle, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Western New York. The Dash was the first expansion team created in addition to the eight original organizations, with even more growth of the league expected for future seasons.
As for the Dash’s origin story, Dynamo president Chris Canetti began researching a women’s expansion team in late 2013, just after the NWSL wrapped up their inaugural season. Having the Dynamo’s infrastructure already in place, and a beautiful, brand new stadium to show off, the decision was simple. It was also serendipitous that Dynamo star athlete Brian Ching had literally just played his last match on BBVA Compass Stadium’s field before turning around to become the team’s managing director.
Before anyone could say “dash,” the big announcement that Houston would host a professional women’s soccer team was made in December 2013, coach Randy Waldrup was hired soon after and in January, the roster had grown to 10 players after an initial expansion draft. Later came a college draft, some international signings and by April 2014, it was time for the team’s first game.
However, before they started the season, they needed a name. Due to trademarks in the U.S., “dynamo” could not be a part of their moniker, so president Canetti decided to look through a common literary tool for inspiration.
“He wanted the same kind of feel as the Dynamo, something energetic, motion-focused,” says Crook. “So he went to a thesaurus, looked up ‘dynamo,’ and claims that he saw one of the synonyms listed was ‘dash.’ Every time we asked him, he mysteriously couldn’t find it again. It gives the same feel as the Dynamo and fits in with the culture of the city and the energy sector. A force, a forward motion.”
The team’s momentum — which, as its name suggests, shows no signs of slowing down — is aided by the fact that the league itself is backed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico Soccer Federations, which helps maintain the high level of athleticism among each team as well as financial support.
“They [the various federations] have their national team players allocated, sending certain players to certain teams to ensure the competition is balanced,” explains Crook of the arrangement. “They also pay those players salaries, so they don’t go toward the salary cap to help the teams out financially. Because if the girls are playing week in and week out, it can only help the national teams for big events like the World Cup and Olympics.”
It’s a situation that has proven successful nationally as well as locally, with the Houston Dash going strong in the middle of their second season, all set off by one of the largest soccer events on the planet: The 2015 Women’s World Cup. With team members Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Meghan Klingenberg, Erin McLeod, Allysha Chapman and Lauren Sesselmann representing Houston through their participation in the U.S. and Canadian national teams respectively, the extra attention can only help the Dash gain more respect and recognition. Not surprisingly, the team wants to capitalize on the momentum by organizing watch parties and events to rally fans and show their support domestically.
“Since we’re the only soccer team in town, we’ll be the go-to for the World Cup this summer,” says Crook. “It’s going to be huge to have the Dash players come back to a giant welcome, hopefully spurring us on to a playoff run and a domestic championship.”
Though the roster this summer will drop from 20 to 14 players, the Dash have high hopes for this season, and their future in general.
“One of our organizational goals is to become the best women’s soccer club in the world,” says Crook. “It’s definitely possible when you look at the resources we have and the team that we’ve put together. We can become the standard — not only in the NWSL — but for the Europeans, South Americans, etc. Any club in the world can look at the Houston Dash and say ‘This is how it should be done.’ That’s our top-level, broader goal. This year, I think it’s just to make the playoffs. There’s a real hunger and desire to prove a point.”
In regular season play, you can catch the Houston Dash all summer long with home games at BBVA Compass Stadium June 6, 20, July 12, 29 and Aug. 7, 22 and 30, all beginning at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the team’s schedule, the official roster, and for the latest news, check out HoustonDynamo.com/HoustonDash.