[MLS 2014: Eastern Conference]
Since winning back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007, Houston has twice gone back to the final game without winning it. Losses to
the Galaxy in the 2011 and 2012 championship games preceded last year’s tumble to eventual champion Sporting Kansas City.
That impressive track record and its conquest of
Supporters’ Shield winner New York prior to the SKC series are hallmarks of Houston’s remarkable consistency. That it has reached the playoffs in seven of eight seasons since moving from
San Jose is a testament to head coach Dominic Kinnear
, who has consistently replenished his squad to maintain good results. 2013 Houston Dynamo Record:
Eastern Conference. Playoffs:
defeated in conference final.
A vital cog of the team’s success, centerback Bobby Boswell
, played out his contact and returned to D.C. United. During preseason former Timber David Horst
and draft pick A.J. Cochran
dueled with veteran Eric Brunner for a spot in the lineup alongside Jermaine Taylor.
The front line is a bit
depleted with the retirement of Brian Ching
and departures of target-man Cam Weaver
and speedster Calen Carr
, who suffered a torn ACL during MLS Cup 2012 after battling through concussion issues the season before.
Houston swung one of the rarest
moves in MLS, an intraleague loan, to acquire attacker Tony Cascio
from Colorado. With regular starter Warren Creavalle
sidelined during preseason rehabbing from offseason surgery, Kinnear moved Cascio around in preseason and such could be the case during the season when Oscar
leaves for World Cup duty with Honduras. Brad Davis
is a longshot to make the U.S. roster and the failure of Jamaica to qualify relieves
Kinnear of other possible concerns. Eastern Conference Preview: Chicago
| D.C. United WHY BE OPTIMISTIC?
Kinnear, Kinnear. The former U.S. midfielder has a knack for shrewdly revamping his squad in mid-season as well as addressing issues during the winter. One of his acquisitions prior to the 2013
season, attacker Omar Cummings
, played just 11 games because of knee injuries. If he can stay healthy, Cummings will bring those elements pace whether or not he
comes close to the career-high 14 goals he scored during Colorado’s run to the title in 2010. He can also complement striker Will Bruin
, whose production
slipped from 12 goals to eight last season, and Giles Barnes
, who in his first full MLS season led the Dynamo with nine goals.
Davis, one of the
league’s classiest players, consistently provides an impressive array of serves and crosses, and in recent seasons has greatly sharpened his effectiveness sliding inside. Ricardo Clark
’s amazing range allows Kinnear the flexibility to tweak his midfield with minimal disruption of defensive shape. Houston’s regular outside
backs, Corey Ashe
and Kofi Sarkodie
, are among the league’s elite and provide both stability and attacking
influence on the flanks. Tally Hall
is amazingly athletic and at age 28 should have acquired the experience to challenge for Goalkeeper of the Year honors.
WHY BE PESSIMISTIC?
Replacing Boswell, the unquestioned leader in the back, whether directly or by committee, is
crucial. Knocking off troubled Montreal and creaky New York in the playoffs papered over the problems of finishing -- that’s you, Will Bruin -- and midfield hiccups that led to a fourth-place
finish in the first place. And despite his prowess, Hall has yet to deliver a full season that prompts everyone, not just Dynamo fans, to petition Jurgen
regarding the 2018 World Cup squad. PROJECTED FINISH: 3rd-5th place.
One can’t imagine Houston not in the playoffs, but banging
heads with the defending champion and Supporters’ Shield winner along with surging New England makes for a long, hard slog. PROJECTED LINEUP:
4-4-2 Goalkeeper: NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY 1-Tally Hall
(28)/USA (6th season) Defenders:
(22)/USA (4th season) 2-Eric Brunner
(28)/USA (2nd season) 4-Jermaine
(29)/Jamaica (4th season) 26-Corey Ashe
(27)/USA (8th season) Midfielders:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
28-*Tony Cascio (23)/USA (Colorado Rapids) 13-**Ricardo Clark
(3rd season) 27-Oscar Boniek Garcia
(29)/Honduras (3rd season) 11-Brad Davis
(32)/USA (10th season)
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
(25)/England (3rd season)
(24)/USA (3rd season) First off the bench:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY 10-Alexander Lopez
(21)/Honduras (2nd season)
18-David Horst (28)/USA (Portland Timbers) 20-Andrew Driver
(26)/Scotland (2nd season) 7-Omar Cummings
(31)/Jamaica (2nd season) Houston Dynamo: complete roster.
returning players in bold.
**second stint with
MARCH SCHEDULE: March 8:
New England, 8:30
Montreal, 8:30 pm ET March 29:
at Vancouver, 8 pm ET Houston Dynamo: complete schedule