This past season was always going to be a difficult one. With a foreign coach attempting to fill the huge void left by Dominic Kinnear, alongside a completely rebuilt front office, fans had to be patient as everyone got settled. It didn't take long for Owen Coyle and Matt Jordon, the newly minted Technical Director, to clean out half the roster. By the summer transfer window, the team only vaguely resembled the one that gave up midway into the 2014 campaign.
Sprinkle in some tough injuries and long national team commitments and it's no wonder that the Dynamo failed to find any kind of rhythm.
But now there are all kinds of rumors that have fans sitting up and wondering just what the heck is going on. The first is that Dynamo original Brad Davis may move closer to home via a trade with Sporting KC. Believe it or not this isn't the craziest idea out there, but it does have a few issues. First, KC Coach Peter Vermes would need to navigate Davis' DP level salary to fit him into the cap. The Dynamo have been doing this with allocation dollars for years but it's unclear how much Sporting would want to do this. Objectively looking at KC, an experienced winger isn't exactly what they need. It'd help and provide a bit more balance on the left, but for what they're paying they could spend the money better.
Of course this move does make some sense for Davis as it gets him closer to his hometown of St Louis (if he wishes to be closer to home) and a better chance at another title before he retires. While Houston may get back into the hunt, it's unlikely to happen in 2016. Sporting has another year or so left in them before a rebuild is needed. Maybe longer with some smart management and luck.
For Dynamo fans, this is likely to be the move that could hurt the worst. Davis is the sole remaining player from the 2006 team that has been here every season. Ricardo Clark is back after a stint in Germany, and likely will finish his career here, but it's Davis who has been the constant. That said, his performance in 2015 was way below par, for fans and likely himself. A long, hard, honest sit down with management is required before training camp in January.
This rumor is more in the unlikely category, unless the Dynamo give up some cash as well to help Sporting balance the cap.
While Coyle and company have shot down rumors about Erick Torres leaving, it came far too late to prevent fans from having anxiety attacks. There was a lot of hope put on the Olympian's shoulders this past season but he was unable to live up to any of the hype. The reasons are difficult to pin down and likely require an in-depth look all on it's own. Whatever the case, Dynamo President Chris Canetti flat out said that Torres is a key part of the team and they've answered lots of calls about him but he is in no way being shopped, in Major League Soccer or out.
With the Mexican International on a long-term contract, it'd take a heck of a lot to pry him away from Houston, especially before he proves himself in the Bayou City. Despite scoring no goals here, he did do very well for Mexico when called upon. Coyle said he has big plans for him in 2016 and it's best to take him on his word.
What really scared fans about this rumor isn't Torres leaving, per se, but that the team would be left with the familiar combination of Will Bruin and Giles Barnes. The former is out of contract while the latter will be back in 2016. Both elicit mixed feelings amongst the fan base, and it's pretty clear at this point that the pair are unable to handle the scoring load needed to take the club to another trophy. It's extremely unclear if there is a way to work them into a good lineup alongside Torres. The few attempts in 2015 saw mixed results at best.
Sprinkle in the confirmed report that striker Chandler Hoffman, goalkeeper Michael Lisch, and defender AJ Cochran are gone, while veterans Clark, Tyler Deric, and Sheanon Williams are out of contract, and it appears the team are in full-blown rebuild mode.
Of the typical Starting XI for Coyle, five have been mentioned above as being shopped or out of contract. The status of loanees Luis Garrido and Leonel Miranda are unknown as well (both are set to return to their respective clubs unless the Dynamo purchase their contract by December 31). The latter has shown well enough to perhaps stick around while the former was largely disappointing this season.
Management admitted they were in the midst of a rebuild towards the end of the season (despite starting 2015 saying they were doing no such thing) and now the proof is on the table. There is a lot of money available for the team to work with. Whether the Dynamo are contenders for any trophies till the end of the decade will likely be determined over the next few months.
The absolute first thing the team needs to do is keep Tyler Deric. In his first season as a starting goalkeeper, the Houston native showed he is one of the top players in the league. His future is extremely bright with many insiders saying he could push for national team duty if he continues his growth (and shaves his head, naturally).
After that the team needs to build in the time-honored fashion: up the middle.
While negotiations with Clark are ongoing, and difficult, signing him up for the right price can add much needed leadership for the team, especially if Coyle can slot him into his natural defensive midfielder position. Lastly an attacking midfielder is a must. The Dynamo have gone years without one and won't be able to compete in the Western Conference without. For that they'll have to go outside the club, likely the international market. This is where moving Davis could help as it would free up a lot of cap space and allocation funds that could be used elsewhere.
While doing all of that, Coyle and Jordan need to build the offense around Torres. He's carried the load, quite successfully, in MLS on a much worse team than this one. Partnering him up with the right striker, and a tactical system that utilizes his strengths, will get a stagnant offense clicking very fast. Not breaking the bank on Barnes and Bruin will give the team all the flexibility needed to find that #10 that's been absent since Dwayne De Rosario and Stuart Holden left years ago.
Finding players to round out the roster for depth is also key. While international call-ups and injuries did plague the team in 2015, it can't be an excuse in 2016. Everyone knows what the calendar looks like (Copa America, European Championship, World Cup Qualifying, Olympics, etc.) and Coyle has to plan around that. Barnes will absolutely miss a bunch of time representing Jamaica. Make sure there is someone to take his place on the squad. This is how MLS works, for better or worse.
Fans now sit back and wait to see what the front office can come up with. After a year of learning and gelling together, it's time to start seeing the future of the Dynamo be put together.