The Houston Dash have parted ways with head coach Randy Waldrum. He was informed Monday morning, two days after the club’s fourth consecutive loss, all in nationally televised games on Lifetime. Officially, the club announced a mutual parting of ways. Assistant Omar Morales will lead the Dash this weekend in Washington.
“Randy is an excellent coach and a great man. He has been fully committed to the Dash and the pursuit of our goals over the last three and a half years,” Dash president Chris Canetti said. “Unfortunately, we have fallen short on expectations, and after a tough start this season, we both agreed today that it’s in the best interest of the team to have a new voice leading the group. We believe this team has the talent to be a playoff contender, and we hope this change can help point it in the right direction.”
Waldrum was hired by the Dash on January 3, 2014, lured away from a successful stint at Notre Dame to help build the club from the ground up. More than three years later, the Dash have yet to win 20 games and have not been to the playoffs. Waldrum ends his stay in Houston with a 19-39-13 record.
“I spoke with Chris today and we decided that it’s in the best interest of the players and the team to go in a different direction,” he said. “This is a tough decision to make, but we all want the team to do well. This group has the talent to fight for a playoff spot and there are a lot of games left to reach that goal. I want to thank the organization, the players and the fans for a very memorable tenure here in Houston.
The Dash have been infused with plenty of talent over the years, but the Waldrum era is likely to be remembered for what happened off the field rather than on it. A tenuous relationship with Kealia Ohai was unearthed last summer when Ohai snubbed Waldrum’s handshake upon being removed from a close game during a particularly frustrating, early-season match against Sky Blue.
Earlier this season, after a 2-0 victory on opening day, goalkeeper Lydia Williams was inexplicably benched in favor of rookie Jane Campbell. The backline personnel was shifted too, Campbell played poorly, and the Dash were drubbed 5-1 by the Reign. Waldrum later acknowledge that he may have put Campbell in an unfair position. She has not played since.
On May 13 of this year, Waldrum tore into his team in his post-match press conference following a 2-1 home loss to Sky Blue FC.
The most damaging incident though was Waldrum’s public feud with Carli Lloyd last summer after Lloyd missed the first Dash match for which she was eligible following the Olympics. Waldrum publicly questioned Lloyd’s commitment as she refused to divulge the reason behind her absence. It eventually came to light that Waldrum knew all along that Lloyd would not be available that weekend regardless of how the U.S. fared in the Olympics. Lloyd is due back with the Dash sometime early next month.
Lloyd was also behind the peak of Dash soccer to this point. Upon returning from the World Cup, Lloyd scored in her first three matches back for the Dash, including a game winner against FC Kansas City that saw the Dash enter August in a playoff position. But they finished 1-4-1, and Lloyd did not score again.
Waldrum made five 1st round picks as Dash coach and all five—Ohai, Morgan Brian, Cari Roccaro, Rachel Daly, and Janine Beckie—started Saturday’s match against the Reign.
Prior to joining the Dash, Waldrum spent 15 seasons at Notre Dame, winning the national championship in 2004 and 2010. He was also the founding coach at Baylor and coached both the women’s and men’s teams at Tulsa before that. On the international stage he coached the USWNT U-23s and took a pro bono position coaching Trinidad & Tobago ahead of the 2015 World Cup. The T&T women had three gut wrenching opportunities to qualify for Canada but fell to Costa Rica on penalties in a win-and-in semifinal at the 2015 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, and then lost to Ecuador on a tie-breaking goal at the death in the back end of their international playoff for the final spot. Waldrum was let go by Tinidad & Tobago in 2016.
The dismissal of Waldrum marks the first time an NWSL coaching job has changed hands in season since the Breakers fired Lisa Cole with four games remaining in the 2013 season. Earlier that year the Spirit sacked Mike Jorden after a slow start, the only other time an NWSL coach has left a team during the season.