Since being announced as the third head coach in Houston Dash franchise history late last year, James Clarkson has hit the ground running in his new role. After organizing this year’s Dash Open Tryouts and naming his complete technical staff for the upcoming season, the new coach now looks forward to his next task: the 2019 NWSL College Draft, which will be held in Chicago on Thursday, January 10. We caught up with Clarkson to get his thoughts on the upcoming draft, including how he looks to strengthen the team’s roster with this year’s selections, how his new technical staff has helped him prepare for Thursday and his overall excitement for his first NWSL Draft experience.
First and foremost, Clarkson’s focus on Thursday will be identifying and drafting the players who will most contribute to the team. “We need to add depth to our roster and add some players that will be able to contribute during the season,” he said. Depth will be especially important with the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, when the team can expect to be without players such as forwards Nichelle Prince and Rachel Daly, midfielder Linda Motlhalo and defenders Clare Polkinghorne and Allysha Chapman during the tournament.
Clarkson hopes to select young players who can step up and fill the voids that will be left due to the World Cup in the summer.
“If we can be as successful in the draft as we were last year we will really be making progress,” said Clarkson, referring to last year’s draft selections. That class included 2018 Dash Unsung Hero Veronica Latkso, who is currently spending the NWSL offseason in Australia’s W-League and is in the running for this year’s W-League Golden Boot, midfielder Haley Hanson, who received her first USWNT callup and cap during her rookie season with the Dash, and forward Kimberly Keever, who scored in her Dash debut on Opening Day against the Chicago Red Stars last year.
Preparing for the draft is no easy task, especially for a coach in his first season with the team. Clarkson has been immersed in research since his appointment to make sure he’s as prepared as possible to maximize the team’s six picks.
“I have been watching plenty of film, talking to as many college coaches as possible and trying to get as much information on the players as possible,” he said.
However, strategizing for the draft is more than just a one person show and for additional assistance, Clarkson has relied on his new technical staff for additional support.
“Having the technical staff on board has been hugely beneficial, their experience has been a great asset,” said Clarkson. “[We’ve been] using their connections and relationships, identifying specific needs and players that we feel can strengthen the squad.”
On-the-field business aside, the new Dash head coach also looks forward to taking in the experience and hopes to create new connections of his own while in Chicago: “[the draft] gives me a chance to meet all the other head coaches and GMs, and to build strong relationships off the field to help the Dash progress.”
Whether it is by directly drafting players who will strengthen this year’s roster, or by creating new relationships that will help the club continue to grow, Clarkson looks forward to Thursday’s draft as an opportunity to positively impact his team and excite fans for the upcoming season. The 2019 NWSL College Draft will be streamed online at NWSLSoccer.com beginning at 11 a.m. CT. The Dash currently hold the 12th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st and 22nd overall picks.