Twenty-two year old defender Cari Roccaro has been a mainstay in the Houston Dash back line this year. With eight starts in the first eight games of the season, she’s helped anchor a team that’s gone through some changes recently, including a coaching change. I chatted with her about all-things Houston Dash, how she first got into soccer, and what she’s currently obsessed with on TV. The Notre Dame Alum and her Houston side take on Orlando this Saturday.
Hannah Kronick: Do you mind talking a bit about how the season has been so far for you guys? What has gone well, what you guys hope to do better and the mindset going into next weekend’s game against Orlando?
Cari Roccaro: The season has been okay so far. We have definitely had our ups and our downs in the past few months. But the good thing is we have put together some good performances, we just have had small breakdowns that have resulted in losses. We have tremendous players on this team, and some real talent as a group. It is an absolute pleasure to play with the best of the best on this team. We bring some good quality along with a good fighting mentality as well. I love being a part of it. I think in the past few weeks after dealing with the coaching transition we have stuck together well as a team and really focused on beating Orlando at home. We need to win this game to get back into the mix and get some points to fight for a playoff spot. We have put in a good few weeks of practice and we are going to be ready.
HK: What’s it like playing in Houston? For the city and for the Dash an an organization?
CR: I love playing for the Dash. The fans are incredible here, and they are so supportive. They continue to be enthusiastic about the team even through our tough times. I make it a point to stay after each game and sign everyone’s autographs because I really like to show them that I appreciate their love and support each week. I also love playing at BBVA Compass Stadium. We are one of the few teams in the NWSL that gets to play in a professional stadium like that and it makes it so fun to play at home. It really makes you feel like a professional soccer player when you walk out of the tunnel. Since we have the Dynamo here in Houston, the organization tries to treat us similar to them as best as they can, and it’s nice to have a men’s MLS team in the same city so we can aim to keep our standard as high as theirs in terms of professionalism. It’s also nice to have an MLS team here to root for and support! The one thing about Houston that I have had to adjust to is that it is so humid! This is my second year so I am a little more used to it, but it is definitely different than anything I have ever been a part of before.
HK: How has the coaching transition been over the last few weeks?
CR: The coaching transition has gone well for the team. I will have nothing but love and respect for Randy Waldrum, and I wish him the best in anything he does in the future. Omar has stepped in nicely and brought a positive voice to the team, and I think we have all responded very well. Practices are intense, everyone is focused, and everyone is hungry for results. We are excited to play Saturday.
HK: About a month ago, the formation of the NWSL PA was announced and there was a lot of buzz around that. What are your thoughts on this?
CR: I was actually aware of the formation of the NWSL PA before the general public was. I am an alternate representative for the Houston Dash, so I have been in the loop with what has been going on and have been a part of the PA group in a group text while they have been approving all of the paperwork. I am honored to be a part of something, even as an alternate, that has positive aims that seek to better this game and this league for young women. I am also honored to be a part of something that holds the standards high for women’s professional soccer players and seeks to inspire young girls to want to be part of the NWSL by aspiring for continued growth and professionalism. By having an organized system of communication to spread positive messages about the league and be available for any future issues that arise, it will only benefit the NWSL, the players, and the fans. The goal is ultimately to promote the NWSL and work with others involved on this league to improve it over time. In my opinion, this is the start of a really great thing.
HK: How’d you first get into soccer?
CR: I started playing when I was 4 years old. My mom and dad made me play, and I have loved it ever since. They made me try a bunch of sports, but this is the one that I stuck with. It was always my favorite, and I set goals high when I was very young. I knew I wanted to be a professional when I was 5 years old. I always grew up thinking it was possible because I was able to learn about the 99ers and the New York Power. I was able to go to New York Power games as a young girl watching the WUSA, and so I always said I would want to do that. As I got older, I was a club player for Paul Riley, who coached the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS. It was a different league, but I still watched the games, and I still had the same goal. Watching those girls was motivation. I had the mentality to push myself to be the best since I was a young girl, and I have worked really hard to be where I am. I have definitely overcome some adversity in my soccer career, but I am very thankful for my ups and downs because it made me stronger. And I am also grateful because I am now playing for the Dash in the NWSL and living my dream–one I have had since I was 5 years old.
HK: What athlete do you most look up to?
CR: I have always been obsessed with the US women’s national team. I always watch their funny videos, their soccer games, and read all the articles about them to get to learn about them as people. I am such a huge fan and supporter and love to watch them play. It is interesting because now I watch them play, and some of my best friends are playing for the team. It makes it so much more fun for me to watch, and I am an even bigger fan now than I was when I was a young girl. I am so incredibly proud of my friends who are being able to represent the USA at that level.
HK: And for the most important question of the day, what are you binge watching on Netflix right now?
CR: I don’t watch Netflix as a binge watcher, but one of my favorite shows is The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I am a huge part/supporter of Bachelor Nation and I am very invested in if these people are going to find love on TV I feel like I am best friends with some of the contestants on the show. It’s quite silly actually. Some of my other favorite TV shows are Criminal Minds, This Is Us, The Office and The Voice. Crime, love, goofiness, and singing–I am really all over the place with TV shows.