Despite the start-and-stop nature of 2020, head coach James Clarkson and his technical staff led the Dash to the team’s first ever league title on July 26 when Houston defeated the Chicago Red Stars to capture the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.
To cap the year off, Houston brought home $15,000 in grant money for NAACP Houston after a stellar performance throughout the 2020 Verizon Community Shield, scoring a total of 12 goals against the North Carolina Courage and Orlando Pride, the highest combined total in a four-game span in club history. Clarkson finished his second year with seven victories in 11 matches and one unforgettable year with unique challenges.
It may be hard to imagine a better year on the field for the Dash, but Clarkson is certain they are just getting started. “We are constantly striving to move the team and club to new levels, the technical staff play a hugely important role,” says Clarkson.
The third head coach in franchise history heads into his third year on the touchline. Through two seasons, he has compiled a record of 14-15-6 across all competitions. It’s no secret his experience and leadership were crucial during the 2020 campaign, while navigating and completing his U.S. Soccer Pro License. Clarkson began the journey to complete his U.S. Soccer Pro License on January 2020 and the program is designed to bolster coaches’ efforts to create a winning culture/team, develop a style of play, implement sport science initiatives at their clubs, reflect on their growth as a coach and serve as leaders in their organizations.
“I want to thank the club and ownership for their support in making this happen,” said Clarkson.
Following his footsteps is Dash assistant coach Twila Kaufman, who is underway to obtain her Pro License in 2022, and will be the third woman to complete so after Jill Ellis and Laura Harvey. Kaufman led UC Davis to one of their most successful Division I seasons in school history in 2018, advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since 2011 and finishing with 14 points in the league standings, the most in the school history. At Pepperdine, the California native helped lead the Waves to a West Coast Conference title, multiple NCAA tournaments including an appearance to the Sweet Sixteen, and a No. 10 national ranking in 2011, finishing the year 15-2-4 overall and 7-1 in the WCC. In her ten years at Pepperdine, she helped shape an experience that helped six players who are currently players in the NWSL.
In addition to her stints at UC Davis and Pepperdine, Kaufman brings extensive experience as both a player and coach at the international level. In 2020, Kaufman was the U.S. U-19 national team head coach at the La Manga Tournament. As a player, she was a team captain during her four-year career as a starter at the University of Arizona.
“Having Twila and Brenton completing their licenses demonstrates a commitment to their personal and professional development,” said Clarkson. “We challenge the players every day, and it’s important the staff is setting the standard.”
Brenton Saylor, the club’s Goalkeeper Coach, is also on path to complete his U.S. Soccer Federation A License in June, 2021. Saylor has been a great part of Dash co-captain Jane Campbell’s success throughout her career with the club. Saylor spent three seasons with the Rice University women’s soccer team, helping the Owls capture the 2017 Conference USA title with a 12-2-2 record. Saylor has a track record of getting the most out of his goalkeepers as we saw with Maya Hoyer, who earned Conference USA Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2017.
“Every day, we strive to create an environment where every player can fulfill their potential and be successful on and off the field,” said Clarkson. “We have a team full of good people with ambition and determination to fight for championships. Next season, we will hopefully be able to play in front of all our fans and continue this journey together.”
Clarkson, his staff and the Dash return to Houston Sports Park Monday to begin preparations for the 2021 NWSL season.