Strength in versatility: Amber Brooks finds a place in the Dash backline

Finding a permanent home has been tough for Amber Brooks. She’s on her third team in four years, and one of her best attributes is her ability to move around the field.

Great for versatility, not so much for continuity.

After a successful four games and a burgeoning partnership, Brooks’ home address may just be Houston Dash center back.

“Others, who know me and know what my goals are, think it’s the best position for me going forward to reach those goals,” Brooks to HoustonDashSoccer.com. “I’ve always been an aggressive player. It’s a good position for me in terms of what my strengths are.”

Brooks has helped stabilize a Dash backline with her feisty brand of defense and her ability to turn the ball over from defense to offense. That skill-set has been a welcomed addition to a defense that’s seen its share of issues with consistency in makeup and performance since taking over for the injured Bruna Benites.

“I think her range and her passing is really good, so that’s one thing we’ve added bringing her in the back,” head coach Omar Morales said. “She’s able to hit a 60-yard ball as well as a five-yard ball. The dynamic of her being able to do that gives us a different look in the back that we didn’t have before is something she brings in addition to her toughness. She’s a bulldog that destroys everything.”

Before her move to the back, the club leaked 20 goals in the first nine games. Since pairing Brooks with Janine van Wyk, the club’s given up just two in a four-game unbeaten stretch. Not all of that is Brooks, but building in continuity has certainly helped.

Pairing Brooks and van Wyk has worked beautifully despite some, quite literal, shortcomings. The pair will not scare anyone stepping off the bus at 5’6 and 5’4 respectively. What they are beating opponents with is a cultured way to read the game.

“It really helps to be able to read the game and read each other. We both have that quality. We’re good players with the ball,” Van Wyk said about her new partnership. “We’re not the fastest players, we’re not the tallest players, but the ability to anticipate what the next pass will be and where to position ourselves is what makes us a good partnership. I know when I go, I have the backing of Amber; and I know how to cover her as well.”

As Brooks evolves into the position, the challenge with any injury forced change will eventually rear its ugly head. As Bruna makes her way back Morales has a choice to make: keep continuity or go back to a prior starter and find another home for Brooks on the field?

“That’s been the question we’ve had this week. With Bruna being now healthy it’s what do we do and what do we tweak?” Morales said. “I think at the same time we want to make sure it’s consistent. The back four is something you don’t typically change if it’s working, but it’s a decision we must make this weekend. As of right now, I think the four will probably look to stay depending on how everything pans out the next two days.”

From Brooks’ point of view making the change permanent would be a welcomed decision.

“At the end of the day, I’ll play wherever the team needs me… I’d like to, now that it seems to be working, to develop into it and see if I can make a push,” said Brooks. “It’s a position of need for the national team, and that’s the ultimate goal for me. If I can stay back there and continue to get better and raise attention for that position I’d be happy to deal with that.”