Wilf Thorne/Houston Dash

Despite playoffs out of reach, Houston Dash still have plenty to play for in final weeks

Coming into year two for the Houston Dash, the goal was simple: make the playoffs. Those goalposts didn’t change throughout an up-and-down regular season, leaving the team disappointed with the ultimate result of the campaign as they were eliminated from postseason contention last weekend.

A run of four straight defeats took the team from a playoff spot and control of their destiny to the outside looking in on the top four spots in the standings. Despite not having a playoff spot to contend for, the team still has plenty on the line in their final two games of the season.

“We can’t just stop playing now and give up because we’re out of it and end up dropping two more and not putting any kind of effort in. It’s not what the club’s all about,” head coach Randy Waldrum said. “It’s been so much better this year than last, and yet at the same time I think everyone feels this big sense of disappointment because we didn’t get to where we hoped to be with a playoff spot.”

Waldrum would still like to see the team finish as high as possible in the standings after a last-place finish last year. The Dash are currently in seventh place, but just two points behind fifth-place Portland Thorns FC. Points and pride are on the line in the final weeks, not to mention jobs for 2016.

“There may be a few lineup tweaks we make in these last two games,” Waldrum said of assessing next year’s roster. “We ultimately still want to get the points, but there may be a couple situational things that we change to look at thinking about next year, to see how something looks, but we won’t do anything too drastic in the actual games that don’t give us an opportunity to get wins. But in training, we’ll definitely be looking at that and looking closely.”

Houston will likely continue to train for a few days after their final match in Chicago on September 6, which is a positive for the simple fact that it signals that the team and the league will be back for another year. It will be the fourth season for the NWSL, passing the three-year barrier that plagued previous professional leagues.

As disappointed as the team is with their final result on the field, they can be proud of what was accomplished off it. Dash average attendance has risen 37% over their inaugural season, and have already surpassed their 2014 marks for both total attendance and ticket revenue (despite the 2015 home schedule only having 10 games compared to 12 in 2014). Two games post-World Cup have topped last year’s top crowd of 8,097 set in the inaugural match.

Support for the Dash has continued to grow, and the team looks to end the year on a high note for the supporters, both new and old.

“I think the league’s in great shape right now with continued, ongoing discussions about expansion. Attendance is up all over the league post-World Cup,” Waldrum said. “Certainly here in Houston our fans have been great, to continue to come out and support us.

“To see the crowd even in the rain against Seattle last weekend was fantastic, and I hope to see another big crowd out there on Sunday night to send us off in our last home game.”