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|Erin McLeod, a goalie for the Canadian women's national team, played for the Chicago Red Stars last NWSL season and will play for the new Houston Dash this year.|
When last season ended, Houston didn't even have a team in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). Now I'm convinced the Houston Dash have one of the best environments in the league and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to join them!
I've been here for only two weeks, but the coaching staff has been phenomenal -- exactly what I think I need to improve my game during this all-important year leading up to the World Cup.
It's always cool to start with a new team, because you get a clean slate and you have the opportunity to help shape the team mottos, morals and values. I think the Dash are similar to the Canadian national team: We want to be very organized and very fit. And it definitely makes my life easier to feel like the two teams I play for are going in the same direction.
At 31 I'm the oldest player (some of my teammates are right out of college and only 21, which can make for some interesting attempts at conversation!), and I love that our coach, Randy Waldrum, has given me so much respect right off the bat. You know when coaches are in there to develop not just players, but people, and I feel honored to be playing for someone who respects me as much as I respect him. We don't have any egos on this team, just a sense of the collective desire to get better.
I came in a little late since I was playing with Canada in the Cypress Cup, but there were a few familiar faces right off the bat. Ella Masar was my teammate on the Chicago Red Stars last year and we live together in this adorable two-bedroom house. Our landlords live across the street, and we get together for dinner all the time. They have a little dog, Rascal, that my Chihuahua, Maxwell (who's half Rascal's size), loves to go steal food from.
The first day I got here we had a preseason game. Just sitting on the bench I remember watching a lot of the movement that the midfielders and forwards were doing, and it was similar to what we're doing in Canada. I was impressed with how well the team was moving the ball around in the back. You're always a little nervous coming to a brand-new team, but I showed up and I instantly thought, "This is going to be good."
I went to SMU in Dallas for two years, so I've had a little taste of Texas culture before. Houston's been awesome, though. I was walking around in a tank top and shorts yesterday. Let's just say that my Canadian skin may get a lot less pale!
And the food here is to die for. I'm going to have to keep an eye on my weight, because there's this place called Gatlin's BBQ that's got the most amazing beef brisket and pulled pork. It's this little house in the middle of Houston and there are people lined up down the street to eat there.
Plus the Mexican food. Don't even get me started! I was in the hospital doing all my medical check-ins before starting to play and there was a mini Mexican place right there. Now usually hospital food doesn't get the best rep, of course, but this place was amazing. If the hospital food is this good, you're in trouble.
I've found a home for my "creative corners" with the Dash, too. Nikki Washington is into charcoal drawings, Brittany Block does pencil sketching and I got Ella a banjo for her birthday this week. So the other day I was painting, others were drawing and Ella was plucking away at her banjo. I think we're going to make it a ritual to let loose a little.
I'm also really excited that the clothing line I've been working with, Peau De Loup, is coming to fruition. (They make women-specific button-down shirts, which are pretty much my uniform when I'm not playing soccer.) Money we make goes to help both the women who work in the factory in Bangladesh and to help educate girls at a school there, which I'm really proud of.
So far the Houston life is pretty sweet and I'm excited for what this new NWSL season will bring. We have our first game against the Portland Thorns on Sunday, and we're pretty pumped to show everyone what we've got!