Striker Brian Ching may be mired in a slump, yet his departure to join the U.S. team for the Gold Cup couldn't be more poorly timed for Houston coach Dominic Kinnear. Dwayne DeRosario, who despite his struggles leads the Dynamo with three goals, is with the Canadian team, and Ching hasn't scored since netting two - his only two goals this season - against Colorado a month ago.
Houston did break out of its scoring malaise sufficiently to beat state rival FC Dallas, 2-1, on Sunday, but still its scoring output of seven goals in nine games is tied with Real Salt Lake for the worst in MLS.
Midfielder Ricardo Clark scored the equalizer with a blast from just inside the penalty area, and his pass to Joseph Ngwenya produced the winning goal. Clark's first goal and second assist of the season came just prior to his departure for the national team. He and Ching are Houston's two representatives and they will leave big holes.
Paul Dalglish sparked the team's run last year after arriving from Scotland by scoring a pair of goals in the regular season and adding two more in the playoffs. He's hobbled by a sprained ankle, though, so much of the burden remains on Ngwenya, acquired from Columbus in exchange for Alejandro Moreno, unless Kinnear can add a player.
Richard Mulrooney, who has been playing right back since being acquired from Toronto, slid in alongside Clark against Dallas in the absence of DeRosario. But if Houston gets hit by injuries or suspensions in the middle, its options are few.
Houston has cap space and roster slots available. It also has its DP slot, which could be used in a trade as well as directly on a player. Kinnear has shown a preference in the past for "proven commodities", players with experience and success in MLS. According to a source, Carlos Ruiz is not on Kinnear's radar screen.