As the the two week break for the Houston Dash came to an end with Saturday night's match between the Dash and the Washington Spirit, head coach Randy Waldrum took some time in an exclusive interview with Examiner.Com to discuss the first half of Houston's inaugural season.
Q. As the break winds down, how is the health of the team?
Coach Waldrum: Now having everybody back to begin the second half, the rest mentally did us some good and physically other then those little nagging injuries (Klingenberg/slight hamstring pull & Noyola/achilles strain) we are in pretty good shape. They have the heart of a champion.
Q. In the past, you have talked about the fact that even though this is an expansion team, they have the talent level to compete for the playoffs. How does this team accomplish that task?
Coach Waldrum: Seeing the result last night with Sky Blue and Portland, you know it's still bunched up there, you're still in the thick of the things and if you can hopefully get a good second half run I think we can make a good push for it at the end of the season. We have have to play solid in all facets of the game. We can't give up easy goals or make the mistakes that cost us some wins in the first half.
Q. The team hasn't made a lot of changes during the break but Washington has for example. How might that affect the outcome of the first game back?
Coach Waldrum: We haven't made any real roster changes lately and don't know that we will but you always keep your eyes open to the opportunities to strengthen your team but I think the other side of that is that we at least have gotten some continuity by not doing it. The other team like Washington is going to be completely different from the last time we saw them because they got Lisa De Vanna now who they picked up in a trade from Boston and then the German girl (Kerstin Garefrekes) that's big addition to them.It clearly strengthens their team and they had a good team to begin with but you have to put new pieces together. So we hope we catch'em at a good time. There's no easy games.
Q. With Engen and Klingenberg on hand for the second half, how does that help your team from a defensive standpoint and overall?
Coach Waldrum; "We can look at the roster all we want but we just have to get better at what we do game in and game out. I am optimistic about the competitiveness of this team entering the second half. Having Whitney (Engen) and Megan (Klingenberg) with us will bring us consistency and world class experience and certainly solidifies what has been a young backline. It's kind of a domino effect when you have that part solid, then the other lines don't have to worry so much about helping the backline. They can now generate a better midfield that translates into more attacking force up front."
Q. Over the course of the first half, you picked up players like Kaylyn Kyle, Nina Burger and have Whitney Engen and Megan Klingenberg coming on board from Tyreso?
Coach Waldrum: "Nina had to adjust to the speed and physicality of this league and it's taken a few games but we're excited to have a player of her talent level on our team. Kaylyn knows the league well and has adapted relatively quickly to how we play. Klingenberg and Engen have been around U.S.soccer all their lives and the league will provide no new issues for them. It's just a matter of slotting them in. The intensity level increased ten fold when they took the pitch so we are excite about what they bring to our second half run Their leadership elevates this team."
Q. What can fans expect in the second half of the season from the Dash?
Coach Waldrum: "We want to have home field advantage. We haven't taken advantage of our home field and as a team you always want to take advantage of that. We need to establish some kind of home field mentality. We have to minimize the mistakes we've been making especially conceding early goals. We have to remain focused for the entire 90 minutes and even though it's coach's cliche we haven't done it."
Q: What excites you most about this team and it's potential?
Coach Waldrum: "The chemistry is like no other team I've had in a long time. I had a few teams at Notre Dame that had this special chemistry like this. This team has not once gotten down on each other or themselves. It'd be really easy when you lost six or seven games like we did to start pointing fingers but they didn't. This chemistry is every bit as strong now as it was one day one and this team still believes that every time they step on the field they will get a a positive result. We don't look like an expansion team. We are not far off and hopefully in the second half, we'll make that run that takes us to the playoffs and beyond."