BY RYAN TOLMICH
The Houston Dynamo fell short in their bid to make it to three straight MLS Cup finals in 2013, but with a veteran group with plenty of talent, and Dom Kinnear at the reins, Houston could make another push at a final despite the fact the team had a largely uneventful offseason.
The Dynamo enter the 2014 season with most of its team intact from last season’s playoff run that saw them knock off the Montreal Impact and Supporter’s Shield winners New York Red Bulls. Houston will expect to have a revitalized Will Bruin, a healthy Oscar Boniek Garcia and a well rested Brad Davis, despite Davis still having an outside shot of traveling to Brazil with the national team this summer.
Last year’s team was heavily impacted by injuries and poor form, as the Dynamo never quite played to the level that many have come to expect from one of MLS’ top clubs.
However, the Dynamo have been contenders in the Eastern Conference for years. The club are just one season removed from back-to-back MLS Cup final appearances. With a roster full of experience and talent, the Dynamo have a real chance to not only contend during the regular season, but to reclaim some of that postseason magic.
Here is a closer look at the Houston Dynamo heading into the 2014 season:
HOUSTON DYNAMO SEASON PREVIEW
2013 FINISH:(14-11-9, Fourth in East)
KEY ACQUISITIONS: D David Horst, M Tony Cascio, D A.J. Cochran,
KEY LOSSES: D Bobby Boswell, F Brian Ching, F Calen Carr
NEWCOMER TO WATCH: Tony Cascio. Cascio became the league’s first intraleague loan when he joined from the Colorado Rapids in January. The 23-year-old has shown promise since being selected 14th in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of UConn. Look for Cascio to add depth to an already formidable midfield.
PRESSURE IS ON: Will Bruin. Bruin has proven to be the Dynamo’s best goalscoring threat. However, his goalscoring dropped 25 percent last season from his 2012 breakout, as he was only able to fire home eight times. Bruin will have to continue to perform quite a few more “Dancing Bear” routines if the Dynamo are to have any chance of fulfilling their postseason aspirations.
You generally know what you’re going to get when it comes to the Dynamo. They have proven time and time again that they are one of MLS’ top clubs. They have continued to play at the highest level and are generally regarded as a constant postseason threat, despite losing back-to-back MLS Cup Finals in 2011-12.
This year doesn’t appear to be any different down in Texas, as the Dynamo once again are favored to fight their way into the postseason. They may not have the talent of Sporting Kansas City or the money of Toronto FC or New York Red Bulls, but Houston have what it takes to contend in the always tough Eastern Conference.
It all starts up top with Bruin, who will have to replicate his 12 goal 2012 season. Joining Bruin will be Jamaican international Omar Cummings, who should be expected to feature in more than the 11 games he was limited to last season. Cummings has proven to be an effective scoring option during his time in Colorado, having scored 14 goals back in 2010. Dynamo supporters got a nice preview of exactly what Cummings can do during last season’s playoffs, as the speedster scored twice in just 194 playoff minutes. A healthy Cummings should pair up nicely with Bruin to give the Dynamo the attacking clout to push them to the next level.
The midfield boasts Garcia, Davis, Giles Barnes, Warren Creavalle and Ricardo Clarke, each of whom have proven to be solid MLS players. Each player knows his role and plays it well, as the Dynamo’s midfield is a unit that certainly looks dependable on paper.
Where questions begin to arise is the defense, as the departure of Bobby Boswell cannot be understated. Boswell appeared in at least 26 games in each of his six seasons in Houston, and the Dynamo are now forced to find themselves a new backline leader.
Boswell’s replacement will have to come from either Jermaine Taylor, David Horst or Eric Brunner, as the trio will battle it out for the two center back positions. Taylor is certainly a favorite to start, while former Portland Timbers Horst and Brunner will battle it out for the chance to join him in the starting XI. However, one of the three veterans will also have to step up to lead the defensive unit, as Boswell’s leadership and experience will be missed just as much as his overall play.
Luckily, the Dynamo boast one of the top fullback pairings in the league in Kofi Sarkodie and Corey Ashe. The Dynamo duo was very effective last year and they will have to continue to both attack and defend well in the absence of Boswell.
Tally Hall will prove to be Houston’s ace in the hole as he continues to be one of the league’s top keepers. Hall was rewarded for his play last summer with a call-up to the national team, despite not featuring for the Red, White and Blue. Hall will have to continue to play at an all-star level to allow fullbacks Sarkodie and Ashe the wiggle room to push forward.
Overall, Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo once again have what it takes to contend. They have one of the league’s top managers, a dependable squad and invaluable postseason experience to fall back on. However, the Dynamo will have to make sure to build on that playoff success if this season is to be a success, as anything less than another trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs would be a disappointment.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP