Even though the result of the Houston Dash season opener was a slightly disappointing 0-0 draw with Racing Louisville, there was still plenty of reason for Houston fans to be excited about this year. This match was my first time ever attending a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game in person, so I’m not going to pretend to be an expert here. But I’m going to talk about the stadium experience in Shell Energy Stadium, run down my notes about the game, and introduce other potential new fans to some of the players who stood out the most to me in the Houston Dash season opener. As the season goes on, hopefully I’ll start saying smarter soccer things and we’ll all be NWSL experts!
Gameday at Shell Energy Stadium
The newly renovated Shell Energy Stadium (formerly known as BBVA Compass Stadium and then PNC stadium after that) opened last weekend for the Houston Dynamo’s first home game, an exciting 2-0 win over Austin FC. The renovations are incredible. There are 10 new food vendors including Bun B’s Trillburgers, Roostar, Roegel’s BBQ, and more. There’s 20,000 new seats in the stadium, a new East Club, new gameday activations and more.
It’s all very dope and makes for a great gameday experience. Also, there’s not a bad seat in the entire stadium so anywhere you sit for a Dash game is going to be a great view. Highly recommend checking out Trillburgers if you’ve never had it before.
The fans at the Houston Dash season opener were incredible as well. The NWSL is a relatively young league (just 10 years old, the MLS is 29 years old, for reference) and currently has 12 teams. So fans who attend these matches in person are passionate about the game and it shows. As the game got more intense with corners, through balls into the attacking third, shots on goal, etc. the crowd always rose to meet the moment. I highly recommend checking out a match if you get a chance. Tickets are really affordable as well. Check them out here on Seat Geek.
Game Notes from the Houston Dash Season Opener
The Dash got a clean sheet in the season opener due to outstanding play by the defense, especially goalkeeper Jane Campbell. The goalkeeper had 5 saves on the night and earned Player of the Match for her efforts. Campbell is in her 7th season with Houston and if the Dash’s season opener is anything to go off of, she looks ready to anchor the team once again.
“World-class performance from Jane. You see that every day in training, you get that type of commitment in training every day. She doesn’t just turn up on Sunday and put in a performance like that…it’s no surprise!”Head Coach Sam Laity on GK Jane Campbell’s play in the Houston Dash Season Opener
Also worth noting for new fans, Jane Campbell is a Swag Champ!
Elsewhere on the defense, Houston newcomer Courtney Petersen looked solid in her Dash debut, starting at left back and holding her own defensively while before being subbed out at halftime after a nasty collision had her tending to an ankle injury in the first. Despite only playing 49 minutes, Petersen was 3rd on the team in Goals Added (g+), a fancy advanced stat I found that’s supposed to measure how much a player’s total on-ball contribution in attack and defense.
Other standouts on defense included team Captain Sophie Schmidt who shut down multiple Louisville attacks by herself” In the first half. The 34-year old Canadian’s performance started to taper off in the 2nd half, as did all of the Dash players. But the captain was still impressive and worth paying attention to.
Defenders Natalie Jacobs (RCB) and Caprice Dydasco (RB) were incredible at holding their own in space. There were multiple Louisville chances were Dydasco was on an island having to defend by herself in the box and she was a brick wall 1 on 1. Peak Kawhi Leonard vibes.
Obviously, in a 0-0 draw there weren’t too many stand out offensive moments. I do expect the Dash to have a more potent attack in coming weeks as players get ramped back up and some players like Maria Sánchez are back at full strength and able to start. However, there were still some flashes of this team’s offensive potential.
Namely, left winger Ryan Gareis really stood out in her first half shift. She was dynamic on the ball. Constantly attacking and creating chances, including a couple highlight plays.
This is only the 2nd year in the league for Gareis and you can tell she has the talent to succeed with the Dash. At one point I wrote in my notes “Ryan Gareis is DIFFERENT” because she was constantly making things happen. The challenge will be getting on the same page as newcomer Diana Ordonez up front, who had a couple flashes of her own in the Houston Dash season opener but was obviously not a seamless fit with the new squad after missing much of the preseason with an injury.
“She’s an extremely dynamic player and has the potential to have a really successful career in the league!”Head Coach Sam Laity on Ryan Gareis
Coming off the bench in the second half, I was really impressed by Cameron Tucker who came on for Gareis in the final 36 minutes and led the team in g+. The 2nd year player out of BYU brought a different level of pace (look at me using soccer words!) to the attack in the second half and seemed to be more on the same page with Ordonez than Gareis was. I hope to see both Gareis and Tucker get playing time together going forward. They were the most impressive to me out of the midfielders!
What’s Next for the Houston Dash?
The Dash’s next match will be on Saturday April 1st against the Chicago Red Stars on the road. The match kicks off at 1pm and will be available to watch on AT&T SportsNet Southwest 2 as well as streaming on Paramount+.
The Chicago Red Stars are coming off a 3-2 home loss against San Diego Wave FC, so hopefully the Dash can pick up the 3 points there as well. The Dash were a very strong team on the road last season.
Houston’s next home match will be an exhibition against the Mexico Women’s National Team on Tuesday April 11th! I’ll be there along with some of the other Apollo Soccer crew and it should be an exciting night! Check out the full Houston Dash 2023 schedule for more upcoming matches.
Thanks for reading, and Dash TF On!