With just under two weeks to go until the opening of the 2013 Houston Dynamo season, it's time to take a look at where the team stands in terms of personnel. The good thing about Houston is as runner up to the MLS Cup, it wasn't time to tear down and build back up from scratch. A few minor tweaks and the team could potentially make a run for a third straight MLS cup.
Last season, the team seemed to lack in two key areas that may have changed their season's course - a consistent striker with speed, and a true attacking midfielder. The question is did Dominic Kinnear fill those two needs with Omar Cummings and Giles Barnes?
Giles Barnes has been impressive in the preseason and seems to have many fans hoping Kinnear will put him into the starting lineup as an attacking midfielder. Cummings, who is still recovering from knee surgery, is a speedy dangerous striker who will only blossom with Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia, and possibly Barnes controlling the Dynamo midfield.
With the addition of Cummings aside, Houston hasn't set off any alarms with their offseason work. A solid center back addition in Eric Brunner, a potential SuperDraft steal in Jason Johnson, and the addition of academy star Bryan Salazar are the other moves the Dynamo have made thus far.
The 2013 trialist list was a light one for the Dynamo, having only brought in a total of seven players. The group included four draft picks - Jimmy Nealis, Anthony Arena, Nic Ryan, and Yannick Smith. In addition, Kinnear brought back a former face in Mike Chabala and Calem Elliot, a Scottish forward that turned down a trial prior to the 2012 season. The last of the trialists was a unique situation as Franck Songo'o, who was employed by Porland in 2012, was given an opportunity to impress the Dynamo staff.
Of the trialists, only Chabala, Nealis, and Arena remain with the team as they train in Charleston, South Carolina. With Corey Ashe returning from knee surgery and being the only left back on the roster, Kinnear is taking his time evaluating both Chabala and Nealis. Having more professional experience, Chabala seems to have an edge on Nealis, but Kinnear could opt to keep both around. Arena has looked solid throughout the preseason as well, slotting into the center back role.
Houston has five roster spots open, but it's unlikely Kinnear will keep all three defenders and we could expect one of them to be gone after the Carolina Challenge Cup ends this week.
Calem Elliot put in a decent trial for Houston, but ultimately there wasn't a spot for him. Elliot would have needed an international roster spot and Houston just didn't have the availability to keep him here.
The Dynamo officially gave word today that Franck Songo'o is no longer training with the club. He was getting massive playing time in preseason, and it appeared Houston was interested in keeping him around. Reports have said Houston and Portland were able to come to terms, but the Dynamo couldn't reach an agreement with Songo'o.
After the club returns from South Carolina, they will train for one week prior to opening the 2013 season at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 2.
Current Roster Depth
Major League Soccer roster rules say a team can have up to 30 players and the Dynamo currently sit on 25. Here's the current roster of all signed players for the 2013 season.
With a handful of Dynamo players expected to miss time with their respective national teams, Dominic Kinnear and the Dynamo could be active in the coming weeks ahead of the start of the season.
Update on 2012 Players Lost
Even though Andre Hainault, Macoumba Kandji, Josue Soto, and Colin Rolfe are gone, I can't help but keep up with the departed players from time to time.
In Scotland, Hainault is finally cleared to take the field for Ross County. Hainualt is eager to make his SPL debut and had some nice things to say about his time in Houston.
Kandji on the other hand has been free and clear and even netted his first goal for Kalloni last weekend. A fitting first for the striker as it gave his side a draw in stoppage time. The phrase "short term" is consistently used when describing Kandji's contract with Kalloni in several articles, so it has me curious if he'll be headed back to MLS in six months. Houston still holds his rights since they offered him a deal at the end of 2012.
Homegrown player Josue Soto has been on trial with Chivas USA and seems to be fitting in well. He's getting steady playing time in the preseason games, and has been involved in the offense. While he hasn't been signed yet, I hear he's playing well and could be headed towards a deal. With El Chelis at the wheel though, anything is possible.
Finally, last year's SuperDraft pick Colin Rolfe is still in camp with the Chicago Fire. Rolfe didn't see action against the Dynamo on Saturday, but was inserted in the Fire Reserve game on Sunday and notched a goal. If your limited to reserve action in preseason, odds are the Fire aren't too impressed so far. Seems the consensus by those who'd know is Rolfe is expected to be cut soon.
Give us your thoughts on the Dynamo roster thus far and the 2013 trialists. With the current roster, is Houston a contender again this year?