The Houston Dash open the 2016 NWSL season on Saturday against their final opponent of the 2015 season, the Chicago Red Stars (7:30 p.m. CT, TICKETS). The offseason brought many new faces to both sides and for Dash head coach, Randy Waldrum, this is the type of test he wants for his team as they aim for a playoff spot.
“Chicago is a great side. They didn’t lose much from last year, I think they strengthened their team with the addition of Alyssa Naeher and [Red Stars head coach] Rory [Dames] has added some good draft picks in there,” Waldrum said. “They were one of the best teams in the league last season and made the playoffs. It’s going to be a challenge for us but we’re looking forward to it because they are one of those teams you have to knock off if you want to make the playoffs.”
In addition to Naeher, Chicago’s roster includes two more U.S. Women’s National Team players in Christen Press and Julie Johnston. Press and Johnston recently scored in the USWNT’s 3-0 victory over Colombia in Chester, Pennsylvania.
For Waldrum, other threats include Amanda Da Costa, who scored three goals with the Washington Spirit last season and brings international experience to a squad that had the second best record in the league last year.
With the first game a few days away, the next challenge for Waldrum is defining his starting lineup—where decisions are waiting with competition at every spot.
“It’s getting tough. It’s probably tougher right now than it was in the first two years. It’s a sign of the growth of our team and the depth compared to those two years,” Waldrum said. “It will be a tough week and an important week for the players in training to solidify our thought process for the home opener. It’s a good problem to have. It’s better than saying well, we have no choice. The good thing is we now have those choices.”
The Dash have their own pair of U.S stars and the first 5,000 fans in attendance on April 16 will receive a limited-edition bobblehead of USWNT co-captain Carli Lloyd, courtesy of BBVA Compass.
Fans that purchase full season ticket memberships for the 2016 season are guaranteed the Lloyd bobblehead. For more information or tickets, visit HoustonDashSoccer.com/tickets.