The Runner Sports

MLS 20 In 20: Houston Dynamo

2015 was a season of transition for the Houston Dynamo as they moved on from the only head coach the club had ever employed. Dominic Kinnear had guided the expansion Dynamo from their inception in 2005 and had many successful seasons while in Houston.  During his time in Houston, Kinnear had compiled nearly 100 MLS victories, two MLS Cups and had appeared in two others.  The Dynamo had only missed out on the playoffs twice, yet management and Kinnear decided it was time to move on.  In came Scottish manager Owen Coyle who was a veteran of mostly the English Championship.  He and general manager Matt Jordan set about reshaping the Dynamo and while the first year didn’t net a playoff appearance, many new faces were integrated at all levels of the organization.  In this second season, Coyle has the MLS managing experience seemingly needed to compete within the league.

Key Additions:

M Cristian Maidana (Last Club: Philadelphia)

M Andrew Wenger (LC: Philadelphia)

D Jalil Anibaba (LC: Sporting KC)

D Agus (LC: Albacete)

Aboulie Mansally (LC: Real Salt Lake)

M David Rocha (LC: Gimnàstic)

In Jordan and Coyle’s second offseason at the helm, they went to work adding needed depth.  It remains to be seen how many of these players will contribute, but now there are many more options to select from.  As for the individual players, beyond a conceptual needed to add more talent and depth, I’m not very high on most. Every MLS based player is a guy that bad clubs wanted to get rid of.  With the exception of Maidana, I don’t think Houston added any difference makers this offseason.

As I just said, Cristian Maidana is by far the most exciting player picked up by the Houston Dynamo this season.  He is coming off a very good season last year, finishing tied for second in the league in assists.  This total coming on a Philadelphia team that struggled to consistently score.  Maidana is a winger capable of fashioning quality service into the box but won’t cut in or score too frequently.  With the positive attributes that Maidana brings to the table, making him the biggest acquisition this offseason means Houston didn’t allocate their big resources toward central defenders or holding midfielders, the positions of need.

Both Wenger and Rocha are wide players who can contribute in some degree but both are limited.  Rocha is a veteran player from Spain who at 31 has seen better days. He has been a player that has bounced around the lower leagues in Spain and it will be interesting to see what he can bring to Houston; I’m not terribly hopeful.  Wenger is a once highly thought of player from Philadelphia who has had his career stall.  Coyle will be looking to revive Wenger’s career as he is capable of contributing from the left midfield position.

The three defensive players who were brought in are all of questionable quality.  The two former MLS defenders were both discarded quite willingly from their previous homes.  Anibaba is at the very least versatile, as he can line up at center back or right back.  Houston will be his fourth MLS team in the last four years, never a good sign.  As mentioned in the RSL preview, Mansally is a player not worth the high price tag.  Agus is another player Houston mined from the lower leagues in Spain and one that is also reaching the tail end of his career.  All three of these players should be thought of as nothing more than depth and occasional fill in pieces.

Key Subtractions:

M Nathan Sturgis

F Chandler Hoffman

D Kofi Sarkodie

M Brad Davis

The one player worth mentioning in the departures category is Brad Davis.  Davis is one of the few players on the shortlist for an MLS Mount Rushmore.  The left-sided player leaves the Houston Dynamo as their franchise leader in games, starts, assists and shots.  His career 122 assists ranks him third all-time in MLS history, but at 34 years old, it made sense to cut ties for a somewhat rebuilding Houston Dynamo club.  His left-footed set pieces will be missed in Texas.

 

2016 Storylines:

How much longer can Demarcus Beasley hang on:

The long-time USMNT player has seemingly been around forever and as Beasley turns 34 this season. The question is how much longer can he play at a high level?  Players who build their career around speed and quickness have trouble aging, but this has not been the case for Beasley.  He is still a trusted option for USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann in big tournaments and for good reason.  As left back is a position of trouble for nearly every MLS club, Beasley is still a huge asset, but as a DP, big time production is still expected.  If Beasley takes just a small step back, his contract will be a huge drag on the Houston checkbook.

Can Erick Cubo Torres regain his all-star form:

In the years 2013 and 2014, the legend of El Cubo Torres began to grow within MLS.  He was the next great hope of the now defunct Chivas USA and as a young player (20 and 21 years old during these seasons) he scored a total of 22 goals across the two seasons.  For those that remember, those Chivas USA teams were horrible and for a kid to score at that level was awesome.  In a messy transition to Chivas Guadalajara before coming back to MLS toward the end of last season, Torres saw inconsistent playing time and unfavorable conditions for a still developing young player.  A huge key for Houston this season will be to somehow find Torres scoring double-digit goals again.  Houston doesn’t have a pure goal scorer on their roster outside of Torres, rather they have a long list of workmanlike strikers in Will Bruin and Giles Barnes.

Can defense improve their 2015 western conference-worst defense:

As noted throughout this preview, the Houston Dynamo had a horrible defensive record last season and without any big name players on their way in, who knows where the improvement will come from.  Without a marked improvement, Houston doesn’t stand a chance to make the playoffs.

 

2016 Reasonable Expectations:

Without many improvements to this roster, I don’t see Houston making the playoffs.  The ray of hope for the Houston Dynamo is that Torres should be better with a full preseason and Owen Coyle is in his second season managing in MLS.  With that said, Houston will, for the third consecutive season, miss the playoffs.  I’m calling for a 9th place finish in the west.

 

Mainstream Sport Equivalent: 

Really, Houston could fit a number of teams, but none well.  I’m going to go with the San Fransico 49ers. Both franchises have recently moved into shiny new stadiums.  Both have undergone coaching changes recently and have missed the playoffs after a long spell of success.  There has been massive roster turnover and both have young players (Colin Kaepernick and Erick Torres) who were once thought of as the next big thing, only to under preform.  These two franchises are historic in their leagues and are now in a period of rebuilding.

John Harbeck

Ohio sports and all things soccer.If you like my writing follow me @JHarbeck5 on twitter

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