Last season saw the Houston Dynamo have the worst season in the team’s 11-year history. The Dynamo finished the season with a 7(W)-14(L)-13(D) record, only bettering the Chicago Fire in the regular season standings. The season began with ex-Bolton manager Owen Coyle at the helm and the season got off to what seemed like a promising start with 11 goals scored in the first three games.
As the season continued, though, Coyle’s defensive tactics were soon exposed, leading to the Dynamo winning only two out of the following nine games, while being outscored by the opposition 13 to 7. The run of poor form led to the “mutual” parting of ways between Owen Coyle and the Houston Dynamo on May 25th. As a result of the sacking, long term Dynamo legend Wade Barrett was named interim head coach. Wade Barrett has experience with the Dynamo but the team would not fare any better under his leadership.
Although their defense did improve under Barrett they would continue to struggle on the offensive end, only winning four games out of the final 22 and averaging less than a goal a game. The Dynamo finished the 2016 season 10th in the Western Conference and 19th Overall.
With the poor season behind them, the Dynamo front office invested in a busy offseason. The team began by bringing on Wilmer Cabrera as the new head coach. Cabrera spent last season at the Dynamo’s USL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Toros, leading them to a playoff appearance in their first ever season. There the team succeeded by playing an attacking, possession-oriented and well-organized brand of soccer that Cabrera will now look to bring to Houston.
There were also a lot of roster changes made, with 10 players being shipped out and 12 being brought in. Including the selling of the second-leading scorer of all-time, Will Bruin, to the Seattle Sounders for a combination of General Allocation Money and Team Allocation Money. While line-up and back line main stays David Horst (Real Salt Lake) and Raul Rodriguez (Shanghai Shengxin) were also released, the Dynamo were quick to find replacements in Leonardo and Adolfo Machado. Youth was also brought in to help in the offense by bringing in forward/winger Alberth Elis, on loan from Monterrey as well as his striking partner/Honduran international Romell Quioto from Olimpia.
The biggest signing came in the form of MLS veteran defender, AJ De LaGarza. The Houston Dynamo acquired DeLaGarza from the LA Galaxy for $125,000 in General Allocation Money and $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. He brings a veteran presence to the Dynamo backline and a winning mentality as he has won three MLS Cup championships (2011, 2012 and 2014) with the Galaxy and was twice named the Galaxy Defender of the Year during their 2012 and 2014 Cup-winning campaigns.
Key Returning Players
The impact of these changes will become clear as the season gets under way but it seems as Wilmer Cabrera is doing everything possible to rebuild a struggling team. The prosperity of the Dynamo will also depend on the returning Dynamo players. With the likes of 2016 Dynamo Player of the Year, Alex Lima and long time Dynamo veteran, Ricardo Clark being crucial to the team’s long term success.
Lima put up career high numbers last season while also being a stand out performer in an otherwise poor Dynamo team. This season could be another opportunity to better those numbers as the quality around him has improved.
The Dynamo also bring back USMNT veteran DeMarcus Beasley as the only returning starter on defense. Re-signing Beasley to a new contract ensures his services for another year and gives the Dynamo locker room a veteran presence. Although he is one of the older players on the roster at 34, he brings experience that cannot be matched. “I feel that DaMarcus is the best left back in the country, and he not only has experience but also has a great level of talent,” said Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera of the signing.
The final piece of the Dynamo puzzle comes in the form of the young Mexican forward, Erick “Cubo” Torres. Cubo struggled to make the starting XI under Owen Coyle last year which led to a loan spell at Liga MX side Cruz Azul. There he failed to make an impact, scoring one goal while making only three appearances. This led to Cruz Azul declining the option to buy and sending him back to the Dynamo.
The good news for Dynamo fans is that Cubo’s most productive season came under new head coach Cabrera in 2014, while playing for the now defunct Chivas USA. The Dynamo offense will be one to be feared if Cubo can re-discover the form of the 2014 season that saw him scoring 15 goals in 29 games.
The 2017 MLS season will prove to be vital for the future of the Houston Dynamo. Big changes, both in personnel and in players will have fans hoping for big improvements. Another poor season can find the team General Manager, Matt Jordan, put under a lot of pressure, as fans of this once successful franchise will not be satisfied with another disappointing season.
The pieces are in place and only time will tell if this team has what it takes to surprise some people. Realistic expectations have the Houston Dynamo hoping for a playoff position but in a stacked Western Conference the question has to be asked if the changes will be enough. At this point it does seem that the future may be bright and the Houston Dynamo will be a team to look out for in 2017.