The Houston Dash have signed South African national team captain, Janine Van Wyk. The center back takes the international spot acquired from Boston in the Allysha Chapman trade.
With the signing, the Dash have now acquired two veteran international center backs this off-season between the previously reported signing of Bruna (age 31) and Van Wyk (age 29).
Van Wyk has been a consistent presence in the South African national team since 2005, amassing 142 caps over that time. Her cap total makes her the all-time South African cap leader, male or female.
Her leadership and quality of play this year has landed her on the short-list for the 2016 African Women’s Footballer of the Year which will be decided in January.
The Dash have been looking at Van Wyk since last season, according to head coach Randy Waldrum, “Vera Pauw, her [former] national team coach, who’s highly respected around the world, reached out to me maybe about a year ago about her, so I had her send me some video. I think it was a game maybe against Cameroon somewhere during World Cup qualification process.
“I had questions about her, it is hard sometimes on video to tell about her speed and all of those kinds of things. So Vera and I kept in touch about her and Vera kept on telling me, “Randy, I’m telling you, she can do it. She’s the real deal.” It never really transpired that we could do anything last season.”
Waldrum remained in touch with both Pauw and Van Wyk throughout the year, while continuing to look at her as an option for the future given the Dash weren’t in a position to make any moves during the middle of the season.
Without the ability to fly around the world on scouting trips, that meant a lot of video which only provide so much information. Then, South Africa played a friendly in the United States this past summer.
“I saw her play against the US, obviously, spoke to Morgan [Brian] about her a little bit after the US game. Morgan was really impressed with the job she did. Tony DiCicco called that game, so I spoke to him and he liked her quite a bit.”
With that, things were put into motion and Van Wyk was eventually signed. In coming to Houston, she temporarily leaves behind the South African women’s soccer scene where she has been one of the leading proponents of the sport and participation of women in sport in general.
As part of her leadership for women in sport in South Africa, she formed the JVW Girls Football Development Program in 2012 to give school age girls a chance to play the sport, and in 2013 formed her own women’s club called JVW FC.
Waldrum expects that she’ll bring that kind of leadership to the Dash next season. “I think the thing she does for us is she brings a wealth of experience, and I think we just need that in the backline. We’ve got enough young players, I thought one thing we lacked last season was some really good veteran leadership.”
The Dash coach is hopeful that in addition to organizing the back line, Van Wyk will be a help in the locker room when things aren’t going the Dash’s way. The Dash had some veteran leadership last season, but Carli Lloyd missed most of the year and Lydia Williams missed a chunk with the Olympics.
That left only newcomer Becca Moros and goalkeeper Haley Carter to bring a veteran presence to the locker room. Heading into 2017, the team should have a much better balance between veteran talent and experience and youthful talent.
Outside of leadership, Waldrum sees a lot to like from Van Wyk on the pitch, “I think both technically and tactically she’s really at the top.”
She’s not known for blazing speed, but that is not a concern, “I watched her a few times against opponents that had a lot of pace, and she’s just tactically really savvy where she really reads the game really well and is always in a good position. Technically, she’s good enough with the ball that she will really help in our build up play out of the back which I haven’t felt that we’ve been able to build out of the back yet the way I really want to.”