For Kicks

Houston's new women's soccer team grabs celebrity supporters — thanks to a kick start from Alex Morgan

Dash power: Houston's new women's soccer team grabs celeb supporters

Houston Dash women's soccer team players at stadium March 2014
Members of the Houston Dash women's soccer team will take to the field in their inaugural match on April 12 against the Portland Thorns FC. Houston Dash/Facebook
Houston Dynamo Brian Ching Houston Dash press conference March 201
Brian Ching in a recent press conference discussing the Dash's inaugural season. Houston Dash/Facebook
Houston Dash women's soccer team logo March 2014
Welcome Houston Dash!
Houston Dash women's soccer team players at stadium March 2014
Houston Dynamo Brian Ching Houston Dash press conference March 201
Houston Dash women's soccer team logo March 2014

There’s a new team in town and it may surprise you who some of its biggest cheerleaders are — many already with season tickets in hand. For starters, retired Houston Dynamo player Brian Ching leads in his new role as the managing director of the Houston Dash, the newest member of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

The NWSL features many of the top players from the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as talent acquired from around the world. The Dash, owned and operated by the Houston Dynamo, will enter the NWSL in the fledgling league's second season. The Dash are the league's the ninth club and first expansion team for the 2014 season. Its 24-match schedule kicks off Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium and extends through mid-August.

Some may be surprised by the buzz already generated by Houston's new women's soccer team, but they shouldn't be. Not when you have folks like the mayor of Houston and NFL Pro Bowlers among the first to snag season tickets.

 Ching says it was after a few talks with Morgan that Canetti declared, “We should do this — grow the game of soccer in Houston.” 

“I think a big part of (the buzz) is that the city is getting behind it — the mayor was one of the first people to buy seasons tickets. I think the fact that the Texans have talked a bunch about it on social media has really helped spread the word in Houston as well,” Ching says.

“You know who’s been big on it is (Texans linebacker) Brian Cushing. He’s been huge. His wife (Megan) played soccer in college, I think at USC. Kealia (Ohai), her sister, just finished playing her eligibility at University of North Carolina, at one of the best powerhouses and teams in college.

"She’s definitely going to be an exciting player. She’s on the United States U-23 WNT right now. Brian Cushing’s bought a bunch of season tickets so he’s been huge on helping push the team, and tweeting and re-tweeting stuff."

Houston, just one of 13 cities with four professional sports teams, relies on its loyal fan base and support of the other local teams. No one knows that more than Ching who played in the MLS for 12 years, ending his career in an emotional testimonial match last December. 

“It’s pretty neat to see guys on other teams take an interest in other sports, and get to know the guys and support Houston teams. I never followed football, or the Texans, before I got here and now I find myself rooting for the Texans week in and week out," Ching says. "I know the Astros aren’t doing too well, but I’ve met a few guys on the team and you’re always hoping they’re heading in the right direction and doing the right things to be successful.

“I think players like Cushing coming to our games helps drive attention to the sport, maybe not so much us going to their games, since they are the big dogs in town, and rightly so, but the fact that they come out and support us, I think that’s pretty cool."

If you enjoy Dynamo games, you can bet that Ching and the rest of the front office (who now mostly double as Dynamo and Dash staff) are doing everything in their power to duplicate that exact same energy and love throughout the city.

“What we’re trying to do on the women’s side is kind of create what we have on the men’s side — what we have on the men’s side is a good team, community based, and successful on the field. We don’t really have the star power like the Alex Morgans, the Abby Wombachs, or the Hope Solos, but the Dynamo never really had that," Ching says. "We’ve been a successful team because we’re a good team and everything has been team and community based.

"I think we have a great coach who understands that, and he’s done a great job assembling those types of players through our drafts — not the star players but the good team players, great players and team oriented.” The basic fundamentals of any good team.

Women's Soccer Reboot

Just a week after his testimonial match honoring his Dynamo career, Ching was right back in the office starting the process of hiring a coach and figuring out the Dash’s game plan. The idea and implementation of the team came quicker than most realize. Dynamo (and now also Dash) president, Chris Canetti spent some time talking with Olympian Alex Morgan, who plays for the Portland Thorns — perhaps the most successful team in the inaugural season of the NWSL.

 "Brian Cushing’s bought a bunch of season tickets so he’s been huge on helping push the team, and tweeting and re-tweeting stuff." 

Ching says it was after a few talks with Morgan that Canetti declared, “We should do this — grow the game of soccer in Houston.”

And so the pieces quickly came together.

“Chris really worked hard and believes in it, to get the thing up and running,” Ching says.

“I always wanted to help out on the men’s side because that’s all I knew, was the men’s side. Then he (Canetti) gave me this role and at first I didn’t know what to expect and the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. It’s a great opportunity, you get to learn the whole business, be involved in forming a brand new team . . . it’s just exciting."

Bringing women’s soccer of this caliber does plenty for Houston sports, but it extends far beyond that. “Not only does it provide great soccer on the women’s side but (also) good solid women role models in the city,” Ching says.

When it comes to NWSL, not all teams are created (or structured) equal. “Only two teams (Houston and Portland) are supported by MLS teams, those other teams have to find stadiums, rent stadiums, they have to make due with smaller staffs and budgets, etc.,” Ching says noting part of the allure for the Dash is that they have arguably the best practice facilities and best stadium to train and play in.

“You look at soccer fans, they tend to be a little more passionate than a lot of the other sports — there’s just a culture in soccer."

Here’s hoping Houston shows the Dash all the love they’ve worked so hard for the past few months. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt and Mayor Annise Parker in the stands on Opening Day. The club's already opened up additional seating at BBVA (for most Dash games, the upper deck won't be open) due to the high interest in the franchise's first game.