Puskás Award runner up Stephanie Roche is off to the USA after penning a two-year deal with NWSL side Houston Dash.
Affable Dubliner Roche, second only to Columbia’s Real Madrid superstar James Rodriguez for the best goal scored in 2014, will jet off across the Atlantic in early March for pre-season with the American side with their league campaign kicking off in April.
Roche has been in demand since she made international headlines for her stunning wonder strike for Peamount United against Wexford Youths in October 2013, a goal that propelled her onto the international stage when she was shortlisted for the coveted Puskas Goal of the Year award.
That list included household names Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa but such was the quality of Roche’s strike, she made it to the top three with Robin van Persie and Rodriguez.
Roche attended the glitzy Ballon d’Or awards ceremony alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi where she finished second to Rodriguez by just 9pc of the vote.
After signing for French side ASPTT Albi in June of last year, she struggled with the language barrier and did not settle in the French suburbs.
Now the 25-year-old is relishing the chance to play in one of the world’s biggest leagues for women and she is adamant she has made the right decision.
“I have looked into them a good bit online and had a lot of talks over the past few weeks so I am really looking forward to getting over there and getting started with the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) season," Stephanie told Independent.ie.
“No Irish woman has ever gone over to play in the NWSL so it is going to be a big challenge for me. I am under no illusions it is going to be easy.
“I am going to have to work hard and get my place in the team so I am really looking forward to getting over and meeting my team-mates and getting to know them better.
“I have taken my time with this. A lot of people have been asking me where I was going. With France I think I may have jumped into it too fast. I didn’t think about everything. I never thought the language barrier would be as big an issue as it turned out to be in the end.”
Houston Dash are just one of two NWSL teams affiliated with Major League Soccer teams, the other being The Portland Thorns.
MLS side Houston Dynamo are managed by former Ireland international Owen Coyle and with Robbie Keane at LA Galaxy, Roche is looking forward to seeing some friendly faces.
“They (Houston Dash) share the same ground as the men’s team so there is going to be a lot of people in the stadium. The league over there is very well supported and professional and I am really looking forward to playing there in front of a lot more than 95 people hopefully.
“Robbie Keane was very supportive of me in the Puskas Award and it would be nice to meet him to say thank you for all his support so who knows, maybe when they come to play Houston I will be able to hook up with him and have a chat.”
Houston Dash head coach Randy Waldrum expressed his delight at having Roche on board.
“I am so excited about the signing of Stephanie, we are getting a player that has great technical ability, a superb left foot, and possibly the best goalscorer to come out of Ireland since Olivia O’Toole,” he said.
“Stephanie will bring a wealth of international experience to our team, and another great attacking option that is different from what we have already. All our Dash fans and fans of women’s soccer in general will be excited about this signing.”