2024 S-2 Briefing: Houston Dash

Almost done! We’re down to the first of the last three opponents for 2024, the…

Houston Dash

Year formed: 2013
The Dash were the second MLS-NWSL partnership after the Thorns-Timbers.

In 2023 I wrote: “…the relationship has always felt different; where the Thorns were always presented as a stand-alone club the Dash have always felt like the “ladies auxiliary” of the Houston Dynamo. Same kit colors, nearly identical logo, even the same horrible dead-eyed fox-creature mascot”:


My other issue with Houston is that: “…they’ve always just seemed the most “blah” unmemorable club in the league, a perennial lower-mid-table struggler whose struggles are…whatever the opposite of “heroic” are. Boring? Pointless? Whatever the reason, Houston has always been my “Oh, yeah…umm…remind me again who you are…” outfit of the NWSL.

Nothing happened to change that last season.

Owner: Ted Segal
Same VC guy, one year older.

Head Coach: Fran Alonso
Houston followed the NWSL fad of hiring a Spanish manager. This one comes from Madrid, and has worked as an assistant for, among others, Ronald Koeman (Everton), Mauricio Pochettino (Southhampton), and (are you ready for this..?) Big Sam Allardyce on the BroSo side.

What’s Spanish for “who ate all the pies”?

He’s supposed to have WoSo experience working with Everton Ladies, Southampton WFC and Liverpool Feds. His gig-before-Houston was Celtic Women in the Scottish Premier League, where he took over in the middle of the 2019-2020 season. His record there is exceptional over two seasons , including a Scottish Cup and two league runner-up medals.

Mind you, there’s only another side or two in the SPL worth a lick besides Celtic (Rangers and Glasgow City, from the look of it) so bossing the SPL with Celtic ain’t exactly like winning the Champions League with Sky Blue.

Still…seems like a decent gaffer.

After finally making the playoffs in 2022 the Dash were quickly ejected (by Kansas City in the quarters) and returned to their usual woeful ways last season.

2023 – 6-8-8 (26 points; 10th of 12) 16GF 218GA 12GD
Season summary: Houston started 2023 looking like they did when they finished up 2022. They were third after Matchday 3 with draws against us here and Louisville away and an away win over Chicago.

That was as close as they got.

Laity & Co. lost three of the next four (the only win? Us, in Houston. Ugh.) and then 5-8-5 over the first 18 matches to end up near the bottom.

That cost Laity his job; he got canned on September 6 after the San Diego loss on Matchday 18. His assistant (and now ours) Sarah Lowdon took over and split the remaining four games 2-2-0.

The Houston FO made it clear that Lowdon wasn’t going to be anything but “interim” by hiring Alonso in December.
Meetings with Portland: 4/14/21 (1-1 away draw), 5/12/23 (2-1 home win)

Outstanding players: Last year I wrote: “Houston, in keeping with their just-sorta-there existence, seems to have had a whole bunch of “close-to-but-not-really-big stars…”

The 2022 “as-close-as-Houston-came-to-a-star” was British forward Ebony Salmon, who arrived from Louisville in June with a chip on her shoulder and ended the season with 9 goals in 13 games as Houston’s leading scorer. She was projected to be the beast for Laity’s mob last season.

Instead she got eleven starts and one goal, and fled Houston at the end of the season,

She wasn’t alone in not scoring. Maria Sanchez and Michelle Alozie were top but with only four each. Diana Ordonez added three, and five players had one each. The Dash’s 16GF was the most meager in the NWSL.

The Dash got blanked 11 times, too, including four straight games (Matchdays 12 through 15, 2D 2L). Horrific but not precisely surprising given the production.

What saved the Dash from licking the Wooden Spoon were their improved defensive midfield and backline and Jane Campell, third in the league behind Abby Smith and Anna Moorhouse.

Goalkeeper – SeasonxG againstGAGamesxGa/gameD/Diff
Campbell 202227.0824221.23-0.24
Campbell 202323.118221.05-0.23

Had the Dash anyone who could have actually scored?

They’d have been a caution.

They didn’t, so they weren’t.

How did they score?

As we just discussed; they didn’t:

Last season I speculated: “Whether a full season of Salmon, Ordóñez, or Salmon-plus-Ordóñez will fill that hole (left by the departures of Rachel Daly at the end of 2022) remains to be seen. My guess is yes…”

My guess was dead wrong. Salmon imploded, Ordonez didn’t step up, and Sanchez and Alozie were barely replacement grade.

How Did They Look?

We’re kind of in the same place here we are with Washington; the squad is going to have a new HC, so looking at what Laity did last season seems kinda pointless.

What does Alonso do at Celtic?

It’s hard to find anything graphic. If you look through the Scottish Premier League site what jumps out is that he ran a 3-5-2 a lot; five of the most recent eight matches. He seems willing to be pragmatic, though. The last four matches (oldest to most recent) go 3-5-2 (home win), 4-2-3-1 (away loss), 3-4-3 (away win), and 3-4-1-2 (away win).

I could only find one match last season where Houston ran out in a 3-5-2; it was Matchday 21, a home loss to Angel City under Lowdon:

Not sure how far we can go with that. Nichelle Prince is gone, Viggiano is gone, Dydasco is gone, while Yuki Nagasato and Cece Kizer are in.

Here they are on Decision Day (another home loss but to Orlando) in a 3-4-1-2:

Kinda the same problem. How about the 4-3-2-1? Laity ran it out in the away draw in Washington:

Prince gone, Tucker gone, Dydasco gone, Anderson gone.

How about the 3-4-3? Laity tried that twice early in the season; here it is in Washington with another scoreless draw:

There’s a possibility; swap someone out for Salmon and Viggiano and you’ve got something…except the 3-4-3 is a “one-of-eight” kind of formation for Alonso.

Hmm. Well, I’m gonna have to punt away here and let’s look ahead to see if we can suss out anything.

Changes for 2024

Well, Sanchez and Ordóñez return, along with many of the squad players. The Nichelle Prince deal brought in Cece Kizer from Kansas City, and Yuki Nagasato was signed as a free agent from Chicago. A three-way deal between Houston, Bay City, and Utah netted the Dash midfielder Belle Briede.

On the loss side all the names we mentioned, as well as a number of waivers and unsigned free agents, including Shea Groom (ended up with Chicago) and former Thorn Emily (Ogle) Curran, who as of this writing is still unsigned.

Houston had no first round draft picks again in 2024. Instead, here’s how their selections went:
Avery Patterson (forward) – 2nd round #19
Kiki van Zanten (midfielder) – 2nd round #21
Amanda West (forward) – 3rd round #36,
Heather Hinz (goalkeeper) – 3rd round, #38, and
Alyssa Bourgeois (D, RB) – 4th round #47

Henderson loved Patterson, big goal-scoring winger (that he thought might be a FB conversion, tho), and the van Zanten pick as a versatile midfielder. He loved the West pick as value, tho noted injury might have dropped her as far as she had. Pretty meh on the last two, but overall? He thought the first three picks won the draft for Houston.

What they’re going to do with all this, though? That’s a hell of a good question.

How they’ll look next year?

Here’s what Henderson thinks:

Big thing with that is that of all the formations we looked at Celtic the 4-3-3 was the one we didn’t see. Let’s go with the 3-5-2 and see what we can do with it:

I won’t even try and kid you; I’m totally spitballing here. Really not sure about Kizer up top, so that could be Amanda West. Convert the veteran or run the rookie? What’s the least-dangerous?

Obviously the new gaffer is the real wildcard.

Summing Up

After last season I said: “…this outfit is hard to care about, at least for me. It always seems like it’s just there. Not good enough or thuggish enough to hate. Not bad enough to despise, or clever and attractive enough to envy.”

It flirted with a tiny bit more in 2022 but then slumped right back into Houston-ness last season. The roster moves so far don’t thrill me; Kizer and Nagasato might be better than Prince and Salmon…but probably not.

As with Washington, I think this season will come down to coaching. If the new gaffer can drive this orange bus like a sports car? That might really shake up my interest. But that’s a black swan right now. Could be a Lamborghini, could be an Astro van. Could be a smoking pile of debris…


This is a tough one. I’m gonna guess playoffs, because everybody and their fucking sister gets into the playoffs this season. But where? And then what? I got nothing.

Let’s put them in sixth, just for fun and because the incoming coach looks clever, but from there I have no real idea what happens in the knockouts.

Will they be dangerous? Here’s my view last year: “…I can see them as one of these clubs, the way Chicago used to be, who will always take points off you and will beat you if you let them.” And, sure enough, they took four off us last season. So we can drop clangers to these people, especially in the industrial steambath that is Houston in the summer.

But I don’t see them as “big danger”. They’re not an alpha predator. More like a scrawny fox that can steal the kibble you leave out for the cat if you’re not vigilant.

Can the Thorns beat them? See above; we couldn’t last season and this lame act finished tenth.

It’s gonna come down to matchday management; rosters, tactics, match management. If Mike Norris learned the hard lessons of 2023 we have the roster to run the table on these people.


Next up: Trickle Charge

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

4 thoughts on “2024 S-2 Briefing: Houston Dash

  1. Houston has the worst climate for a visiting team, well Orlando is bad too, but Houston hasn’t been good or as fun to watch since Rachel Daly left. They look bottom of the pack to me. I have a lot of respect for Kizer, but I don’t think she wants to be there. And, Yeah they are not an Alpha Predator.
    Meanwhile everyday Bay City is looking more like a top of the table team. Where are they getting all the money?

    1. Expansion clubs are like a box of chocolate; no matter how pretty the box the first time you open them they can be just a gooey wet mess (hi, Angel City!).

      We’ve proved we can lose to damn near anyone, though, so…

  2. Yup, that is true all those super stars coming to Bay City have to mesh. But just like a National team it won’t take that long for them to become scary and that Bay City front line with all that speed and aggression will be a nightmare for a team with slow defenders. I have a feeling we will see a lot of bunkering against these flyers.

    1. Oh but SO not “so”.

      That is to say it might “not take long” for BFC to put it together. Or it might “take long”. Or it might not happen at all. I mean…”a good team beats a team of good players” is a cliche’ for a reason!

      So – because I haven’t looked at them yet I’m not sure – it’s possible that Bay City bolts out of the gate a final boss, the San Diego of 2024.

      Or they’re the Angel City of 2024; flawed, struggling, incomplete.

      We won’ t know until we see them.

      But there’s no “inevitable” in war or sport because “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. We can look at the roster and fear it but for now>

      It’s all just plans on paper.


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