The Houston Dash have fired Sam Laity before the completion of his first season as head coach, the club announced on Wednesday. The move comes with the club currently in 10th place in the 12-team National Women’s Soccer League, six points off the NWSL playoff places with four matches left to play.
Sources tell The Equalizer that the decision was made on Tuesday with a club meeting held with the players on Wednesday morning. The Dash lost 1-0 to the San Diego Wave last Sunday. Houston played over an hour with 10 players after Michelle Alozie was shown a red card in the first half.
After 10 years as an assistant in Seattle, Laity was hired in December 2022 by the Dash in his first senior head coaching role. He leaves Houston with a 4-6-8 record in the regular season. The Dash finished the Challenge Cup group stage with a 2-4-0 record, which means over 24 matches in all competitions the Englishman won 25% of his games.
“We have high ambitions and continuously work to build a competitive team that will represent the city at a high level,” Dash general manager Alex Singer said in a statement. “After considerable evaluation as to what is best for the team at this time, we made the decision to make a change.”
The team did not immediately name an interim coach.
Expectations had been raised prior to Laity’s arrival in Houston. In 2022, under interim head coaches Sarah Lowdon and Juan Carlos Amoros, the club finished fourth in the NWSL standings and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in club history.
Instead, the team has regressed in almost every offensive statistic. While Laity can be proud that his Dash team boasts the best defensive record in the NWSL, they also own the worst goal-scoring record in the league by a wide margin, with only 12 goals scored in 18 games.
With the season almost lost, no win in the last eight regular season matches, and a poor showing in the Challenge Cup, the club viewed Laity as unable to turn things around and opted to move in a different direction.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday afternoon, Singer elaborated that the decision had been made by her but took into consideration the senior leadership group on the Dash’s roster.
“With any major decision, we do consult with with team leadership with our team captains. Although this ultimately was a management decision. As I said, we consult with our team leaders on important matters and know that they’re drivers of this team and this organization,” Singer told the media on Wednesday.
Both Singer and President Jess O’Neill lauded Laity for his “optimism” and the way he carried out the role of head coach with integrity. They confirmed there was no ill will after his departure and wished him all the best.
But as well as the disappointing results, and a lack of “cohesion” on the field, Singer also mentioned that Laity’s management style just wasn’t quite right for the club and this group of players.
“I think with this this group we have here that it may have possibly just not been the right fit with the group of players,” said Singer. “Sometimes something is missing within those relationships and it’s a few things that were both on and off the field.”
In the short term, that means getting as many points as possible from the four remaining matches of the NWSL regular season. The Dash will name an interim head coach in the coming days, with first assistant Lowdon, who has acted as an interim before, expected to assume the position.
Should Houston claim 10 or even 12 points from its final four matches of the season, there is still a chance the club can climb its way back into the playoffs.
For now, the long term is unknown. Laity was Singer’s first head coach hire as general manager. It hasn’t worked out and Singer will likely be under pressure to get the next head coaching hire right.
On Wednesday, Singer also hinted that she has learned a lesson from working with Laity, a first-time head coach. The Dash general manager also confirmed the club is looking to have a new permanent hire in place by the end of the year.
“We will be looking for a coach who does have head coaching experience,” Singer said.
“We are looking to do to have things wrapped up in November. You know, we recognize that it’s very important for this position to get integrated with the staff and players as early as possible and you know, going into the preseason and into the draft how important and imperative it is to have that working relationship in place.”
Firing Laity before the end of the season has at the very least set the standard for the type of club the Dash wants to be in terms of results and position in the NWSL standings.
The Dash return to league play on Sept. 15 when they travel to face Racing Louisville FC.
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