Women’s professional soccer returns to Houston: 7 p.m. April 12 at BBVA Compass stadium.
The Dash opens against the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League champion Portland Thorns.
The Dash beat four Texas women’s teams in scrimmages (Rice 4-0, Texas A&M 1-0 and 3-1, Texas Tech 7-0, Houston Aces 7-1). The team roster has 18 players, of whom three defenders will return from international play by June: Whitney Engen (3), Megan Klingenberg (25), Lauren Sesselman (4).
The goal keeper will be Erin McLeod (1). She played for Penn State and three Canadian World Cup teams. McLeod is the most experienced Dash player with 94 international games (caps).
Bianca Henniger will back her up. Henniger played for Head Coach Randy Waldrum on U-23 international teams.
McLeod will be protected by three defenders: Marissa Diggs (23), Ariana Romero (2) and Kika Toulouse (16). Diggs, a rookie from Rowlett, started four years of college ball at UCF. Romero plays for the Mexican National Team and had 77 starts for Nebraska. Rounding out the back will be Toulouse, who played for the University of Virginia. She is in her second season.
The midfield includes Brittany Bock (11), Becky Edwards (14), Jordan Jackson (8), Teresa Noyola (10) and Nikki Washington (26). Bock played for Coach Waldrum at Notre Dame.
Edwards played for Florida State. Jackson was a teammate of Romero at Nebraska. Noyola has seven caps with the Mexican National Team, including two games in the 2011 World Cup. Her Stanford University teams reached the NCAA finals four times.
Washington hails from Mesquite. She played on the UNC national championship teams in 2006, 2008 and 2009. She will likely be handling duties at the corners.
Up top, expect to see Ella Masar (30) and Rafelle Sousa (6). Masar has one cap and played for Illinois. Souza earned one cap on the Brazil National Team. She played three seasons for Old Miss, finishing as the school’s all-time scoring leader.
The forward positions remain fluid with additional players Tiffany McCarty (22) with 95 starts for Florida State, Stephanie Ochs (22) who played for San Diego, and Kealia Ohia (7) who played for UNC.
For those of us used to the 4-4-2 formation of the Dynamo, we can expect to see a more ball control 3-5-2 formation from the Dash.
The Dash is the first expansion team of the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League. The new league replaces Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), which collapsed because of funding and internal disputes in 2011.
The NWSL was formed in 2012 and is sponsored by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Mexican Football Federation (MFF). This structure spreads the league across the country (three time zones) and gives it a distinctly international flavor.
The USSF will sponsor three players and the CSA and MFF will each sponsor two. The remaining 11 to 14 players are paid under a combined salary cap of $200,000. The non-designated player’s salaries vary between $6,000 and $30,000. This will limit the experience of the players, which is critical in the run up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup.