After consecutive Eastern Conference championships the Dynamo have failed to get over the final hurdle and capture MLS Cup. After opening BBVA Compass Stadium last season and finishing the season unbeaten at home, things are looking up on all fronts in Houston. Can 2013 be the year they put it all together and bring the Cup back to South Texas?
Let’s first take a look at the roster as it stands now and then I’ll take a brief look at the season and what may be in store for the Dynamo.
Tally Hall is the surefire number one between the pipes for the Dynamo. After spending some time training with the US National Team and not getting a chance to play with them, Hall may have more fire this season to show both MLS and US coach Jurgen Klinsmann that he is one of the best American keepers. Former academy product Tyler Deric will back up Hall and will likely get some work this season with the Dynamo’s congestion of fixtures. Deric played in the Open Cup and Champions League last season and could do the same again in 2013. Deric has a great skill set and could probably challenge to start on other teams in MLS. Learning behind Hall and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley is huge for Deric’s development. Erich Marscheider will again be the number three keeper. Barring injury, he won’t get any time on the pitch.
One of the few losses this season for the Dynamo was defender Andre Hainault leaving to join Scottish side Ross County. Hainault’s playing time dropped considerably as the 2012 season progressed so the loss of Hainault will not be a blow, although depth is needed especially with the Dynamo playing in multiple competitions. Former fan favorite Mike Chabala has been on trial this preseason and according to reports looks likely to earn a place on the team. 2nd round pick Jimmy Nealis is also fighting for a roster spot. Returning players Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe, and Kofi Sarkodie will likely start on the backline with 2nd year player Warren Creavalle providing the role of utility player with his ability to play in defense or midfield. Sarkodie and Ashe provide pace on the outside to get forward in the attack while Boswell and Taylor are the kind of center backs that anchor a defense. Eric Brunner, acquired in a trade with Portland will provide quality depth at centerback.
Just this week the Dynamo have signed winger Andy Driver from Scottish side Hearts. Driver, a 25 year old winger comes to the Dynamo on loan through June and then his deal will likely become permanent. Driver could play on the left if the Dynamo play a 4-1-2-1-2, which they won two cups with, pushing Brad Davis to CAM. It will obviously take Driver some time to get acclimated to the Dynamo and MLS so for now look for Driver to provide backup to Davis and Boniek Garcia. Central midfielders Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat are both more defensive minded midfielders so the creativity and offensive prowess of Davis and Boniek will drive the Dynamo. Englishman Giles Barnes has been pegged by some to have a big season this year. Barnes is the only real attacking center mid that the Dynamo have. If the Dynamo play a 4-3-3 I’d like to see Dom experiment with Boniek and Barnes up front on the wings. That would leave Davis, Clark, and Moffat in the midfield in what essentially could turn into a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2.
Calen Carr’s torn ACL in December definitely weakens the Dynamo attacking corps but they have players capable of playing up front and scoring goals. While Carr will likely miss most of the season, Brian Ching and Cam Weaver will have to pick up the slack. Dynamo legend Ching will turn 35 this year and he can’t be counted on to go 90 minutes any more. Ching and Weaver will both be called on to not only come on late in games but to spell Will Bruin at times when Champions League and Open Cup matches come on the heels of league matches. Jamaican Omar Cummings was acquired in the offseason and although he is injured to start the season, he could have a big impact. Cummings is a veteran of both MLS and international soccer and when healthy his pace up front will compliment Bruin very nicely. When Cummings is healed look for him to earn a spot in the starting lineup alongside Bruin. Bruin earned his first cap for the US National Team this offseason, at BBVA Compass Stadium, and the 2012 Dynamo leading goal scorer will look to continue his growth and maturity into one of the prolific strikers in MLS. If Bruin can score 20 goals this season the Dynamo have a real shot at winning the Supporters Shield and making a deep run in the playoffs. Bruin has rounded his game out in the past year, becoming more than just an aerial threat. His work rate and constant drive forward make him the player I’m most excited to see in 2013. The Golden Boot is not out of the realm of possibility.
My Ideal Lineup
Hall; Sarkodie, Boswell, Taylor, Ashe; Clark, Moffat, Davis; Boniek, Bruin, Barnes
Again this is not what I think the lineup will be, but what I would want to see. It is a 4-3-3 with Barnes pushed up in the Calen Carr/Mac Kandji role of wing/forward. Also a 4-4-1-1 with Barnes in front of the 4 man midfield of Davis, Camargo, Moffat, and Boniek would be intriguing to see as well.
It’s not quite trophy or bust for the Dynamo in 2013 but you get the sense that this team has title aspirations. An unbeaten home record in 2012 shows that in whatever competition, BBVA Compass Stadium is not an easy place to play. Keeping that streak going in 2013 will be huge in the Dynamo’s quest for silverware.
Kinnear never really puts much in to the Open Cup so don’t expect a deep run in that tournament. Mexican giants Santos Laguna are the Dynamo’s opponent in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Santos Laguna will be (heavy favorites) but the Dynamo will look to use the first leg at home to try and gain an advantage. If they can get past this round they have a shot at going deep. No MLS team has ever won the CONCACAF Champions League so the odds aren’t in their favor. That leaves the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup as the other two trophies possible for the Dynamo. Both could be and should be goals in 2013. While the Supporters Shield rewards the team who is best throughout the season, MLS Cup rewards the team who gets hot in the playoff tournament. Nobody gets a team ready for the playoffs like Kinnear and his teams always have success. Will a trophy-less 2013 be a disappointment? I say yes.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)