On March 10, after a short press conference for the first training session in Dash history, head coach Randy Waldrum spoke to Keeper Notes on a few topics. After what has been an interesting few weeks in the women’s soccer world, with events that have occurred outside of the club’s control, we discussed the roster woes the Dash are facing and how it may affect their preseason plans.
Hannah Enad: Coach, let’s talk about the roster. Unfortunately, the Dash have a couple of injuries already. Let’s start with Aya Sameshima. Has she suffered anything serious?
Randy Waldrum: No, Aya is just dealing with a slight meniscus tear. We’re just trying to get her calmed down a little bit, because she just did it recently. So she’s had a little fluid, and it’s all cleared out now. She looks to be headed in a good direction. So there are a couple of decisions to make. When you have a torn meniscus many players can play with it or get it taken care of in the offseason. Or we may clean it up a little bit, which is a three to four week recovery. So we’ll keep an eye on her on for the next week to ten days before making that kind of decision. But nothing major is wrong, so that’s the good thing with her. She’s been rehabbing since she hurt it, in Japan, and she had good medical care there, so now our doctors will take care of it. We’re going to rehab her a little bit this week, see how she responds, and then make a decision, whether we need to clean it up, so she’s ready for the opening game; or whether we think she can go ahead and play through it. If she’s not swelling, then she’ll be fine. If it starts to swell, then we should probably go ahead and clean it up. But that’s a minor procedure.
HE: Good. We’re glad to hear it. We didn’t really get any details when her injury occurred. Some media were reporting that she was subbed in for the Japan versus U.S. Algarve game. Even FIFA reported that it was Aya.
Waldrum: [laughs] Yeah, they were missing the boat somewhere. She was nowhere near Portugal. They [Japanese officials] made us aware of it. They didn’t take her to the Algarve Cup at all, because of the injury. They want her back. You know, she’ll be scheduled to miss May for us, because she’ll be gone for the Asian Cup for World Cup Qualifying, so they’re making sure she’s healthy for that too.
HE: Yes, Houston will have a lot of international/allocated players that will be out for events like that. How is that going to affect the roster?
Waldrum: Well, it’s tough. I’ll be real honest with you, the first two months really worries me; because we won’t have Whitney Engen or Meghan Klingenberg, really until the end of May. Not only because of their responsibilities with the Algarve Cup and the national team, but because they’re still playing with Tyresö, so their under contract is until the end of the Champions League. If they get knocked out early, then we’ll get them back a little early, but Tyresö is a really strong team, so they’ll [likely] go pretty deep. So we could go the first month and a half without those two.
And unfortunately, we lost Lauren Sesselmann for the year. As you know, she tore her ACL, so she’ll be getting it repaired relatively quickly. She’s still in Green Bay, which is home for her. Once she gets a little bit more mobile after her surgery, then she’ll come down and join us, and then we’ll pick up the rehab from there. She should be in the next month. So she is out, and that puts us in a bit of a bind.”
HE: But the Dash will be getting roster relief, correct?
Waldrum: We’ll get roster relief; we’ll be able to replace her on the roster. But she’s still one of our players, so we’ll still be able to take care of her rehab and all that. But the hard part is, with Aya missing all of May, with Klingenberg and Engen out… They’re all three backs. And you know, with Sesselmann, I was hoping that she could be the kind of veteran we could put Marissa Diggs, a young player, next to her, but now all of a sudden we lose Sesselmann. Right now, we’re—quite frankly—looking at Ari Romero from Mexico, but she’s straight out of college. We’ve got Marissa Diggs, straight out of college. And we have Kika Toulouse who played a lot of minutes last year and she can play anywhere in the backline, but she quickly becomes the veteran player, only after a year in the league.
So we’re looking at some options, that’s why we brought so many players in here. So let’s see if we can find something out of the 17 free agents we brought in, and we’re also looking at some internationals. I was hoping to use it [the last international spot] for the midfield or up front, but we may have to use that international spot for a back. Which was unexpected, but we have a couple of really good prospects that we’re close to working with. But that’s my big worry, the months of April and May. We’ll be missing some key players. Hopefully our fan base will be a little bit patient with us.
But we won’t take the approach that, ‘Oh, woe is us, because we’re missing these players.’ The approach will be: You know, this is who we’ve got, we’re going to go play and we’re going to go win with this group. And if we have to convert these players and get a little cover for a month and a half, or however long it takes, then we’ll do it. It’s just that next player up approach.
I think that’s why it’s important, from my standpoint, that I’ve got the players believing in themselves, and buying in to how we want to play. And that’s really quite honestly why we drafted the players that we did. It’s all players that have something to prove, who were left unprotected—for whatever reason—by their team. We could have had Shannon Boxx, Kelley O’Hara, Amy Lepeilbet, or Rachel Buehler [Van Hollebeke], but we had reasons why we didn’t. And that’s what we sell our players on, what Brian [Ching] alluded to. We have to get them thinking that: We picked you because we think we can win with you. We picked you over those players, because I wanted you here. And from day one, that is the message I’ve been sending.
What’s interesting is that I think it’s already resonated with the players. I was talking to a player, and she couldn’t come in because somebody has her rights, but she was talking with Ella Masar and the player relayed the message back to me. The player was really excited about Houston and really wanted to get a chance to come in here, and she mentioned—and Ella doesn’t know this—but Ella told her, ‘You know, Randy made it really clear to us from day one that he picked us because he wanted us here.’ Ella asked her, ‘When’s the last time you heard from any of your coaches that they wanted you?’ And the player said, ‘College, when I was being recruited.’
They’ve been knocked around the pro leagues, and have been left unprotected. They’ve been part-time players; they’re not key players for the teams. And she [Ella] goes, ‘This has been fantastic, because he believes in us and he wants us here.’ For the player to share that with me unsolicited, it’s one of the reasons she wanted to be here too! That’s exactly the message that we want our players to get: He believes in us. They believe in themselves, they just want a coach that believes in them, you know? If we get the team chemistry, and the team fighting and playing for each other, we’ll be fine.
HE: Well, I certainly believe it. Speaking of team unity, can we go back and talk about the roster again? Specifically, actually, can we talk about the whole hoopla with Lauren Sesselmann and Desiree Scott’s manager? Do you mind just clarifying Sesselmann’s status with the Houston Dash?
Waldrum: She’s ours. She’s officially ours. And you know what? She was great with the process. We kind of stayed out of the whole agent thing and the deal with the league and what she and Desiree were going through initially. We drafted her. We got her through the allocation. We wanted her here; we made it clear from day one that we wanted her. She was probably in a situation where she was given advice to look the other way and I think we felt all along that legally she was ours, and at the end of the day she was either going to play for us or she wasn’t going to play somewhere. Early on, there wasn’t a ton of communication between the two parties, because of the agent and what was going on with the league, but as we went on and communicated with Lauren a little bit, she was great from day one. She was excited about coming; she wanted to be here. She just wanted to get with her agent and make sure her agent understood that she wanted to be here. So I never once got the impression from Lauren that she didn’t want to be here. We stayed away from getting involved with it early, when those rumors were flying. We let the league and her agent kind of work through it, and then the league said that they’ll reach out and talked to Lauren directly.
Lauren never once came in and said, ‘I don’t want to play in the league, I don’t want to be in Houston. I want to go to England.’ She never once said that. From day one she was great. She said, ‘I’m excited to play for you. I want to be there. I just got to make my agent understand.’ I knew we had her, once we got her. It’s all been finalized and she’s ours. It’s just unfortunate that she goes out and has that kind of an injury, because she was a really a big part of what we were going to do. But she’s excited about coming in after her surgery, and coming and being a part of the team. In fact, I talked to her just the other day, and she’s anxious to get down here and help in any way that she can.