Houston Dash prepare to honor Armed Forces members at inaugural season home finale

Saturday will be a day of firsts and lasts at BBVA Compass Stadium as the Dash host their inaugural Armed Forces Appreciation Night for the team’s final home match of the season.

Dash reserve goalkeeper Haley Carter and her husband, Michael, were among the veterans honored for their service last month when the Dynamo held their annual evening paying tribute to members of the armed forces. When the Dash decided to organize their event initiative, Carter was a natural choice to be deeply involved.

The native Houstonian spent nearly eight years as an active duty Marine Corps officer, completing two deployments in Iraq and working on humanitarian missions in Asia. Now splitting her time between Houston and the family home near Austin, she trains with the Dash and runs the Epic90 goalkeeping academy.

“Brad and Tally honored my husband and I at halftime in Military Appreciation on July 4. After talking with the front office and Dynamo staff it was one of those things, like why don’t we put something together like this for the Dash?” she told HoustonDashSoccer.com. “Houston is very good to its veterans … It’s definitely one of those communities where people are really outspoken about supporting veterans.”

With more than 290,000 female veterans and service members in the greater Houston area, Saturday night’s Haley’s Heroes game against Sky Blue FC (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS) is an ideal chance to raise awareness and acknowledge the immense contributions made by women in the military.

“It’s an opportunity to recognize female veterans,” Carter said, adding that women often perform behind-the-scenes work which is not always highly visible or dramatic but is vitally important and involves sacrifices such as spending long periods of time away from family, frequently in inhospitable parts of the world.

A number of donated tickets for Saturday’s match will be available to armed forces members and ticket packages will include a partial donation to Banded Brigade Outdoors, the non-profit headed by Dynamo players Brad Davis and Tally Hall.

“I hope the fans really come out and show their appreciation for us and for the military and I’d love to see the crowd be like it was opening night with that excitement—it’s the last chance to see us play this season,” Dash head coach Randy Waldrum told HoustonDashSoccer.com.

He paid tribute to the 30-year-old’s work both in the Corps and for the Dash. “She’s been an unbelievable ambassador for our team this year, been great in training, been a really good role model for all the players. Makes it hard for the players to complain about anything when they look at her,” he said. “We couldn’t have a better ambassador.”

The Dash are hoping to end the week on a high after a 4-1 defeat on the road to Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday, mirroring the scoreline when the sides met in Houston a week earlier. This year’s NWSL Shield champions—awarded to the team with the best regular season record—scored three times in nine minutes during the first half. They added a fourth courtesy of league MVP contender Kim Little soon after the hour mark, but a sharp close-range finish from substitute Nina Burger late on gave the visitors a consolation goal.

Waldrum said that for a young team still finding its feet in its debut NWSL season, Seattle represent a benchmark and their standard of play is something for the Dash to aspire to. “To come out and do it at 1-1 in the second half, at least we finished with some fight. The bottom line is they’re just better right now, with better players with more experience at this level, and that’s what we ran into,” he said. “There are a lot of lessons to be learned.”

For now, ahead of what’s sure to be a busy offseason, the focus is on aiming to conclude the team’s home fixtures with a win.

Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.