HOUSTON – The Houston Dash made history Saturday when they met Tigres Femenil at Estadio Universitario in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. It was the first international friendly played by a National Women’s Soccer League team in Mexico.
More than 8,000 fans were in attendance for the game, which was followed by the Tigres men’s sold-out match versus Club Santos Laguna. The Dash returned to Houston with a surprising 2-1 victory and, the club hopes, some newfound interest from Mexican fans.
Estadio Universitario, known as El Volcan (the volcano) opened in 1967. In addition to Liga MX games, it has hosted matches for the men’s World Cup and Copa Libertadores tournaments.
“We’ve got to provide our players different experiences. We’ve got to have Houston at the forefront,” Dash head coach James Clarkson said. “As the game evolves, international competition becomes more important. Exposing our players to different and potentially hostile environments, where there’s pressure from the crowd and games are competitive, is important.”
Clarkson added that this match was an opportunity to build on the Houston-Monterrey city rivalry that already exists between the Houston Dynamo and Tigres men’s teams.
“Yeah, I think if we can create a rivalry between countries and teams, I think it’s massive,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of a really good exchange between us both, and we can play more games like these against international players.”
Tigres is the two-time LigaMX Femenil champion and, just as its male counterpart, is considered to be one of the best women’s teams in Mexico. For the Dash, the game was an opportunity to show their talent against a strong international opponent.
“Our teams in the league always want to take on teams internationally because there’s always talk about who is the best women’s league in the world,” said Dash goalkeeper and Mexico international Bianca Henninger.
Dash defender Arianna Romero, another Mexico international, said her team treated the friendly “like any other game.”
“We obviously do have history, so it’s going to be fun and exciting to play against [our Mexico teammates],” said Romero prior to the match.
LigaMX Femenil has been growing and looking to attract more players. The league has enacted rules changes to make more players eligible.
“It’s obviously very exciting to have a league down there,” Romero said. “This year, they changed the rule to where Mexican-American players can play. It’s obviously a stride in the right direction. We’re very excited that it’s growing enough to have that expansion. It’s a good thing.”
The win over Tigres Femenil was a bright spot in what has been a disappointing season for Houston. The Dash currently rank seventh in NWSL and failed to qualify for the league’s postseason. The will close the regular season this Saturday at the Utah Royals.