(Just A Few) New Faces in Dash Camp

Newly signed Dash defender Deneisha Blackwood played for Orlando during the NWSL Fall Series. Photo by Jordyn Baker.


by Grant Wiedenfeld

Unlike previous years, the 2021 Dash preseason roster features remarkably few new faces. With 21 players returning from the team’s victorious 2020 Challenge Cup roster and 25 already under contract for 2021, it’s clear that the Houston club has found stability under head coach James Clarkson. What he began building in the last two seasons now just needs a little reinforcing as the team preps for the next Challenge Cup that kicks off in April, followed by the 2021 regular season in May.

With all 11 starters from the Challenge Cup final returning, the new players in camp aim to add depth to the roster, and could eye a starting spot when several players head to the Olympics in July. Captain Rachel Daly is expected to make the “Team GB” team roster; Jane Campbell and Kristie Mewis are in the mix for the United States; and Sophie Schmidt, Nichelle Prince, and Allysha Chapman will very likely suit up for Canada.

2021 Dash draftees Joelle Anderson and Makamae Gomera-Stevens won’t join the team until after finishing their college careers, either. So Clarkson has invited three players to camp as trialists who hope to earn a contract, and has also signed three players with previous NWSL experience.


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NWSL veterans new to the Dash
Gabby Seiler started 13 games for the Portland Thorns in 2019 and appeared in 5 games in the shortened 2020 campaign. The midfielder played for both Georgia and Florida in college (and was a dual sport athlete for the Gators, delaying the start of her pro career to play one last collegiate basketball season in 2018). She was named to the July 2019 NWSL Team of the Month before an injury ended her season early. Dash fans are advised not to remember the match against Portland from that month, but to instead be grateful that the Dash have signed Seiler to a two-year deal with an option for a third. 

Emily Ogle was traded along with Seiler to Houston in exchange for the two picks in the 2021 NWSL Draft. A midfielder out of Penn State, Ogle saw little time in her rookie season of 2019, but started two games in 2020 and appeared in three others. The Dash have signed her through 2022, and she is now reunited with Nittany Lion teammate Amanda Dennis.

Deneisha Blackwood played the NWSL Fall Series with Orlando, starting the Pride’s first two games and subbing into the last two. The left back, who goes by the nickname “Den Den,” played every minute for Jamaica at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She was a two-time NJCAA All-American at Navarro College in north Texas and finished up her college career at West Florida. With Erin Simon claimed by Louisville in the expansion draft and with Chapman likely to spend significant time away with Canada, the Reggae Girl adds important depth to the Dash backline. She is signed for 2021 with a 2022 option.


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Second time’s the charm

Last year Annika Schmidt was in camp as a trialist with the Dash before Covid-19 shut down the 2020 preseason. After starting all but five games in her three collegiate seasons at Butler, the defender headed to Sweden after her NWSL opportunity evaporated, finding a place instead with Kopparsbergs/Göteborg FC in the Damallsvenskan (Sweden’s top division). That club lent Schmidt to Sunnanå SK of the Elitetan (the next highest division) where she started 9 matches. Schmidt now returns to Houston with a signed contract for 2021 plus a one-year option. Note that she is unrelated to Dash midfielder Sophie Schmidt.

Zandy Soree trained with the Orlando Pride during the 2020 Fall Series but did not appear in a match. The midfielder played collegiately at Central Florida (coached by 1999 Women’s World Cup champion Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak) and has represented Belgium at both the youth and senior levels. A dual citizen of USA and Belgium, Soree last appeared for the Red Flames as a substitute in one match at the 2020 Algarve Cup. Given the current travel restrictions, it’s unlikely that Belgium will call her up for their late February friendlies, so she will be concentrating on making the Dash squad.


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First-time trialists
Michelle Alozie played first at Yale and then for Tennessee as a graduate transfer. It might be surprising to think of Yale as a stepping stone to another university, but when it comes to sports the SEC has few equals. As a junior in 2017, the forward was named Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of the Year by United Soccer Coaches. Injury cut short her senior season at Yale, but Alozi was granted another year of eligibility and went on to score three goals for Tennessee in fall 2019. While not playing soccer, she’s working on completing a master’s degree in sports psychology.

Midfielder Amber Marshall joins the Dash preseason camp from Utah State. The December 2020 college grad started every match for the Aggies in 2019, playing all but 15 minutes. Marshall has played as a holding mid throughout most of her career. At Utah State, she totaled 49 career shots, recording two goals and two assists.

Even if no trialist makes this year’s Dash roster, Annika Schmidt shows that the path to a contract is not always straightforward. The hardest thing for fans will be waiting until April’s NWSL Challenge Cup to finally get a look at the 2021 team in action.​

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