On Saturday, March 2 the Houston Dynamo will open their 2013 MLS regular season against conference foe D.C. United at BBVA Compass Stadium. Just three days later, they'll play host to Liga MX club Santos Laguna for their next match in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The quick turnaround gives the club little rest and time to prepare for such an important match. Santos is in full season form as the Mexican league is currently in the middle of their Clausura tournament. The Dynamo will likely look to a reserve heavy lineup to get a leg up on the Mexican club.
Contrary to many fan's outcries for taking the region's most important tournament more seriously, the Dynamo have historically fielded more reserves than regular starters. In fact, in the 2012-2013 CCL, Houston has relied on their reserve players to get them this far as their two leg match with Santos is in quarterfinal play.
With Houston's recent offseason moves, Dominic Kinnear fielding a heavy reserve squad could turn out just fine. The Dynamo have built upon an already solid core and have a good group of reserves that could very well compete for starting positions on many MLS teams.
In my opinion, the expected starters for the regular season will include: Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe, Ricardo Clark, Boniek Garcia, Brad Davis, Adam Moffat or Giles Barnes, Will Bruin, and Omar Cummings (when healthy).
That leaves Warren Creavalle stepping in for Sarkodie and Eric Brunner providing relief for Boswell and Taylor during the CCL run. At forward, Cam Weaver and Brian Ching are likely to be the regular starters, while Jason Johnson could see some time off the bench. The midfield seems the most interesting, as Kinnear has some impressive options. Whether it's Moffat or Barnes that gains the starting role, one of them likely will lead the midfield in the CCL. Houston's newest addition, English winger Andrew Driver, could play a huge role if he gels quickly with the team. Driver is in midseason form and shouldn't need time to pick up fitness. Homegrown player Alex Dixon has looked decent in preseason and appears ready to challenge for more playing time as well.
Here's a look at a potential starting lineup that Kinnear could field during CCL play: Tyler Deric, Warren Creavalle, Bobby Boswell, Eric Brunner, Mike Chabala, Alex Dixon, Adam Moffat, Andrew Driver, Luiz Camargo, Cam Weaver, and Brian Ching.
In the two lineup predictions, I'm assuming a traditional 4-4-2. With the additions to Dynamo squad this offseason, Kinnear will surely be able to switch up formations to tactically match up with opposing teams.
Santos is not a team to be taken lightly. Currently they are in contention to make the Mexican playoffs, and were crowned 2012 Clausura champions a year ago. While the team personal has changed a bit over the last year, the club still has two of the most dangerous strikers in Mexico with Herculez Gomez and Oribe Peralta.
But with the moves Houston has completed, it almost appears Kinnear has built two rosters - one to compete for the MLS Cup and another to compete for the CCL crown.
What do you think? Does the Houston "reserve" squad have enough strength to take down mighty Santos and the teams that wait beyond?