[MLS CUP: Countdown]In addition to the usual awards, MLS honors such players as the comeback player of the year (not necessarily from injury but from oblivion as in the case of 2012 winner Eddie Johnson) and its best newcomer (as opposed to best rookie). It should add an award for the best-midseason acquisition, as how teams do on the summer transfer market is an increasingly important factor in their success. If such an award existed, the winner would have been Houston Dynamo midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia.
The Honduran, whose middle name is derived from the great Polish star Zbigniew Boniek of the 1980s, is only the second Designated Player the Dynamo has ever signed. Houston's reluctance to dip into the DP market was understandable, given how poorly Luis Angel Landin did. The Mexican forward was one of the biggest DP flops in MLS history with only two goals and three assists in parts of two seasons. It quickly became apparent that Landin did not fit in with Dynamo was allowed to return to Mexico before the end of his second season in MLS.
Garcia has been everything Landin wasn't. A player who has linked well with the players in front and behind him from his right midfield position and those beside him in midfield position. He is a player, says Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear, "makes our team better on both sides of the ball."
The Houston boss describes Garcia as "technically very smart, good on the ball, can go at guys, can beat you off the dribble. He can tuck inside, has good tough, has good vision, and good awareness."
Kinnear says Garcia, who was acquired from Honduran club Olimpia, was just the midseason acquisition the Dynamo needed to ignite its season.
"It was a good signing by us," he said, "and I lean on [Houston general manager] Chris Canetti. I give him a ton of credit for making sure this deal happened. I know the fans enjoy watching him play. The players enjoy having him on the field and in the locker room. He doesn’t say a whole lot, to be honest, and I don’t know if he would if he knew English, but he’s a great pickup for us. The team overall is better because of his addition."
Kinnear says the key is that Garcia, who scored four goals and six assists in 17 games, stepped in and produced right away.
"[The] one thing that does stand out for me is in the past, and it happens all around the world, internationals come to new leagues and it takes a while to adjust to either the league, the pace of play, the difference with the language barrier, referees," he said. "He had no adjustment period, he came in for two practices and we played three games in a week. He fit in not really knowing the team or the players, that just shows you the type of player he is. His adjustment period was two days of practice. I don’t think he’s had a bad game for us, and hopefully he continues to have good games for us in the near future, and beyond."
The Dynamo finished the MLS season as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, but is a changed team from the one that began the season. Every starter from the MLS Cup 2011 runner-up returned but only six are expected to start Saturday against the Galaxy.
Geoff Cameron was sold to Stoke City, and Jamaican Jermaine Taylor stepped into Cameron's place. Kofi Sarkodietook over for Andre Hainault at right back, and Ricardo Clark returned to the Dynamo after two years in Europe. Corey Ashe won the left back job.
For some teams, participation in the Concacaf Champions League is a curse. But Kinnear says it's been a benefit, allowing players like Sarkodie to get valuable playing time.
"I think the one thing we’ve been lucky with is that we were in Concacaf Champions League," he said of the lineup changes. "That gave a lot of young players the opportunity to play. It gave them experience at an early age, and it’s what helped them become better players. There are players in that locker room who will accept guys if they come in and want to work hard."