Teams have to evolve in tournament play and will have off games.
The Dash and James Clarkson had a lot to learn about each other in their first four games that were all different in their own ways in preparation for the knockout stages.
That is what the first four games were for, preparation and learning. After all this was the first live competition for all teams involved .
The first two games wowed everyone with 5 goals of quality from Rachel Daly, Shea Groom, and a healthy Kristie Mewis. These were goals of quality.
Those watching closer saw a team that needed to stabilize it’s team shape come knock out time.
The final two warm up games the Dash were shutout and the goals dried up.
Enter the knockout phase and an improved team shape from the coach James Clarkson!
The Dash would “own” the knock stages by not conceding a goal in three matches en-route to the title and did it through collective spirit and determination that we have not seen in a Dash team.
They shut out Utah Royals, Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars in the final.
Let’s call that tournament evolution!
2.) PLATFORM TO SELF BELIEF
The quarterfinal matchup against Utah Royals could not have been so much different than their opener which was a 3-3 draw.
After a 0-0 scoreline and an improved defensive Dash, enter Jane Campbell.
Campbell provided the dramatics in the penalty kicks win denying the Spanish International Vero on the Royals final attempt.
This win was dramatic and galvanizing and I believe came at the right moment for the group in the self belief department.
After that I felt that the Dash would win this tournament especially after NC Courage were eliminated.
The grit and determination department was hands down won by the Dash!
3.) NEW SIGNINGS
James Clarkson upgraded the areas of the team that need it in the off season.
It’s one thing to identify the problem but another to get the players.
Central defense was shored up with the additions of Katie Naughton and Megan Oyster.
The attack is no longer simply “Rachel Daly”.
Daly now has others to play off of in Shea Groom, Katie Stengel (where did she go?) and the healthier duo of Kristie Mewis and Veronica Latsko.
This team is not as predictable as it once was.
The shame is we will not see a full season to see how it progresses for awhile.
That said a new standard and bar has been raised with new signings and a tournament championship!
Photo courtesy: Houston Dash