“No Mess, No Fuss”
Founded: 2005. The team was first known as the Houston 1836, but changed the name after the local Hispanic community complained about the name. 1836 was the year when Texas gained their independence from Mexico. Since 2006, the club has been known as the Dynamo.
Where they Finished Last Season: 14-9-11 (Lost to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2012 MLS Cup.)
Pedigree: 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup Champions, 2008 recipient of the MLS Supporters’ Shield, 2-time Western Conference Champion (2006, and 2007,) 2-time Eastern Conference Champion (2011, and 2012.)
Rivals: F.C. Dallas (EL Capitan Classico.)
Supporters: Texian Army, La Bateria, Brickwall Firm, and El Batalion.
Rivals: F.C. Dallas, and San Jose Earthquakes.
Head Coach: Dominic Kinnear (Seventh Season.)
Top Returning Players: GK Tally Hall DEF Jermaine Taylor, DEF Corey Ashe, MF Bonniek Garcia, MF Brad Davis, MF Adam Moffatt, FWD Will Bruin, FWD Giles Barnes.
Key Additions: DEF Eric Brunner (Portland Timbers,) FWD Omar Cummings (Colorado.)
Key Departures: DEF Nathan Sturgis(Colorado Rapids,) DEF Andre Hainault (Ross County-Scotland,) and FWD Macoumba Kandji (Kalloni-Greece.)
Key Young Player to Watch: DEF Kofi Sarkodie.
One of the criticisms that Major League Soccer gets from pundits, players, and fans (both domestic and abroad,) is that the quality of play is poor and the style is unattractive. Through the years, MLS has developed a style that is based off of a tight budget and an American ethos on how the game should be played. Play physical defense, emphasize goalkeeping, and be picky with your attack. Scoring is not the key, but maintaining a lead is important (a.k.a. park the bus.) While many teams try to play this way, none are as good at as the Houston Dynamo. As a D.C. United fan, I saw this last year first hand when the Houston Dynamo played D.C. United in the Eastern Conference Finals. While it sounds like I am being critical of the Dynamo, I am not. Their style of play has proven to be successful in pretty much every season of their existence and is the reason why they are a two-time MLS Champion and have represented the Eastern Conference in the MLS Cup in the past two years. They may not play like F.C. Barcelona, but they certainly win like them.
With the Dynamo, the first thing you see is how little their system, lineup, and philosophy has changed over the years. Coach Dominic Kinnear is in his twelfth year with the club and it does not appear that he is going to be leaving anytime soon. Throughout his tenure, the club has almost always played in the 4-4-2 system with pieces rarely being moved. What I found most interesting while researching the Dynamo is the devotion the players have to Kinnear and this team. You saw it with Brian Ching last season, who was drafted first by the Montreal Impact last season in the expansion draft only to force them to trade him, and Ricardo Clark, who came back to the team last season after an uneven stint in Germany. Seeing not only the devotion to one’s team by the players, but the fans as well is just another positive reminder that this league is finally starting to develop a culture and roots in their respective cities.
In terms of goalkeeping, there are very few netminders in the league better than Tally Hall. One of the traits that any good goalkeeper should have is confidence and Hall has this by the boat load. Last season, Hall had a remarkable year recording 12 shutouts, which is an MLS record. This season though has been a bit of letdown. He is currently fifth in the league in saves with 52. Saves is a very interesting stat because while it shows he is able to avoid goals, having too many means your defense is poor. He has a goals against average of 1.02, which is seventh best in the league, and has only allowed in 18 goals.
One of the major problems that the Houston Dynamo have had this season is scoring. A club last season that could score freely without delay, Houston this season have had some difficulties in reaching the back of the net. In the past eight matches, Houston Dynamo has only scored two goals (against the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City.) While 4 of the 5 matches were on the road, and against strong attacking teams like F.C. Dallas, New York Red Bulls, and the Montreal Impact there is no excuse for a goalless draw at home against Toronto F.C. Will Bruin just has not seemed like the same player from last season. Bruin last year was a wrecking ball on offense, scoring 12 goals in the regular season, and four goals in the playoffs. While he has scored 4 goals this season, he has not scored in the past 8 games.
The team has never been able to produce a replacement for Brian Ching, who now serves as a player-coach and has not really done much this season (at least on the field.) FWD Giles Barnes is still getting comfortable in his role as second option on the Dynamo offense, scoring four goals in 12 matches. There needs to be a positive transition between Ching and Giles Barnes and Cam Weaver, who is essentially fourth on the depth chart. Ching has only logged 220 minutes this season, but has played in 12 matches. During the dog days of MLS (July-August,) it may be time to give more minutes to see what he has in him. Houston will also be getting back Omar Cummings, who has been injured all season. Although he only played in two matches this season, in five seasons with the Colorado Rapids Cummings scored 38 goals and helped lead the team to the 2008 MLS Cup. Even if he just serves as a veteran 65th minute supersub, Cummings should be a valuable asset going forward.
Part of their struggles is due to international duty and injuries. In the past month, the following players have spent time on international duty: GK Tally Hall (USA,) DEF Jermaine Taylor (Jamaica,) MF Brad Davis (USA,) and MF/FWD Oscar Bonniek Garcia (Honduras.) That is five starters, plus there are injuries with DEF Corey Ashe, who was supposed to be on the U.S. National Team, and FWD Omar Cummings. With all of these players gone for
various reasons, and with FWD Will Bruin heading off to play for the United States in the Gold Cup, the Dynamo’s depth has been tested this season and for the most part has failed. That being said, the Dynamo should expect all of these players back soon and will have plenty of time to get their chemistry back together.
There have been some positive revelations with this test of the Dynamo’s depth. With veteran Brad Davis gone, the Dynamo has been relying more heavily on Midfielders Adam Moffatt and Andrew Driver. Moffatt has started 11 matches this season for the Dynamo, has played mostly in central defense, and occasionally played a more a defensive midfield position against more difficult attacks. The unsung hero of this season has been Andrew Driver. Driver normally plays on the left side of the midfield and can also play in an attacking role. He has been the primary replacement for Davis the last four games, taking over his role as an attacking midfielder on the left side. While he has been a serviceable replacement, it is very hard to replace a player like Davis who does so many things to make an offense function. The Dynamo have certainly missed his foot on set pieces and corners, where he is able to bend the ball with pinpoint precision.
With so many pieces coming back from injury and international duty, it will be interesting to see how this team meshes together. Qualifying for this year’s playoffs will be difficult. The Dynamo currently stand in fifth place, two points ahead of the New England Revolution and the Chicago Fire. With the Revolution and the Fire finding their chemistry after the trades for Juan Agudelo and Mike Magee, respectively, the Dynamo will have to get back in form fast to keep pace. If this club can make it to the playoffs, then they will be a difficult team to beat. But they are going to have to make it first, and in an Eastern Conference that is much improved from last season it is no longer a certainty that the Dynamo will make it.
Beer of Choice: Saint Arnold Summer Pilsner Saint Arnold Brewing Company
There are two things you need to know about the Houston Dynamo before you go to a game at BBVA Compass Stadium. First, it is very hot during the summer in Texas. Second, make sure you bring a light beer because dark beers and hot weather do not go well together. Saint Arnold’s is one of the brewing companies in all of Texas, and though I am not a huge fan of Pilsners, in terms of beer it is one of the best types of summer beers that you can have. I first had my first Summer Pilsner a few weeks ago while watching the Houston Dynamo play the New York Red Bulls. Although the game did not end up well for the Dynamo, the beer was a keeper.