H-Town's Forever Hero: Rachel Daly Says Goodbye to the Dash
As the 2016 sixth overall pick, first English player, and first St. John’s player ever drafted in the NWSL Draft, Rachel Daly is H-Town through and through. A player who has talked about how much Houston and its people mean to her and the club, it shows in her seven-year tenure with the Houston Dash. As other players left due to lack of success, missed playoffs, and countless coaching changes, Daly stayed.
Daly was transferred to Aston Villa F.C., in the Barclays Women Super League in England, on Tuesday, August 9, after requesting a move to bring her back closer to family. Daly grew up in Harrogate, England, and recently helped the English Lionesses bring home the first trophy for England since 1966: a Euros title. But despite her leaving, she is forever a part of Houston history.
Daly has broken club records and experienced all types of highs and lows. From playing through the Dash's losing seasons to being part of a historic run and the first ever trophy for the club in the 2020 Challenge Cup, she’s shone on her own even if the team around her wasn’t shining its brightest.
Breaking down Rachel Daly’s career in Houston means looking at a lot of impressive numbers. With over 116 appearances for the Dash in all competitions, Daly has scored 42 goals and recorded 12 assists for the team during seven NWSL seasons. On September 10, 2021, Daly broke the club’s regular season goal record, scoring goal number 28.
She holds the record for all-time goals and regular season goals at the Dash. This season, Rachel Daly became only the second Houston Dash player to earn 100 NWSL appearances with the team. In her celebratory game right before leaving for the Euros, Daly scored a goal to send her off to the Euros in style. This was also Daly’s last game for the Dash, and a beautiful full-circle moment, as she scored in both her first and last games with Houston.
One of Daly's most memorable goals came after earning a starting spot in the 2016 season opener. She scored from distance in the 22nd minute to tie the game up. During the 2017 opening weekend, Daly scored a magnificent goal that curled into the top left corner, earning goal of the week honors and getting a feature on SportsCenter Top 10.
But arguably Daly's biggest accomplishment with the Dash was leading her squad as the captain through the 2020 Challenge Cup bubble all the way to Houston’s first-ever trophy. The Dash went 1-1-2 throughout the group stage, opening their tournament with a 3-3 draw against the Utah Royals. They beat the OL Reign 2-0 before losing twice to close out the group stage. But with everyone advancing to the knockout rounds, the Dash made it to their first playoffs. They met the Royals again in the quarterfinals, advancing 3-2 on penalties with Daly scoring the game-winning penalty. Houston met the Portland Thorns in the semifinal as Daly scored off a corner kick in the 69th minute to send her team to their first championship game.
In that championship game, Daly assisted Shea Groom’s goal in stoppage to seal the victory for the Dash. Daly was named the Challenge Cup MVP and was placed on the Best XI for the tournament. Her three goals and two assists during the Challenge Cup also earned her the Golden Boot. Daly and the Dash kept the mantra of “The circle doesn’t break” throughout the tournament, and in her postgame locker room speech, she let the world know that “The circle never f*cking broke!” Daly’s leadership in the Dash locker room throughout the tournament and her career was very evident and to see her leave the Dash is truly the end of an era.
Daly was named to the league Second XI twice, in 2018 and 2021. She has been named to the NWSL Team of the Month four times and won the NWSL Goal of the Week five times. Within the Houston Dash, she was named Team MVP in 2018 and 2021 after leading the team in scoring both years. Daly’s international career took off after her debut with the Dash, giving her the opportunity to play in the 2019 World Cup, 2020 Olympics, and the 2022 Women’s Euros where she started every game.
With the Dash in third place heading into the final two months of the 2022 NWSL season, they are on the brink of clinching a playoff berth for the first time. Daly's goodbye post to the Houston Dash commemorated her time with the club:
“Seven years later, this team is on the brink of history, and I have to watch from the sidelines as I step away to be closer to family. It pains me to say goodbye...Houston has been my world for the past seven years and for that I will be forever grateful. I gave it all for H-Town and know I left it all on the pitch. You always want to leave a club in a better place than where you found it, this is no longer the same old Dash. The club, the city, and the people will always have a special place in my heart.”
In a beautiful full circle moment, Daly scored in her last Dash game, without fans even knowing it was her final game as a part of the team, seven years after scoring in her Houston debut. A poetic moment for the club legend.
Rachel Daly’s impact is lasting, not only in Houston but around the league. As the first English player to come and play in the United States and then be drafted into the NWSL, Daly paved the way for other young English talents to enter the draft after spending their collegiate years in the States, opening a new pathway for young athletes who may not feel ready to return to their home country. Daly caught eyes in every game with her goal-scoring ability, feisty personality on the pitch, and all-in passion she showed in every game without fail. She helped to transform the Dash into a new and exciting team with her leadership and skill.
Daly will definitely be missed by NWSL fans for her spunk and passion, but probably not by NWSL defenders as she takes her goal-scoring abilities back across the pond and to her home. Daly will be celebrated for her Euros win and her career at halftime of the Houston Dash's match against Racing Louisville FC, Friday, August 12 at 8:30 PM ET.