The Houston Dynamo roster remained relatively the same from the 2013 Major League Soccer season, however there was some movement. Beyond draft picks, Mark Sherrod, Alex Cochran and Michael Lisch, the team also acquired Tony Cascio and David Horst in trades. With that in mind, I present the 2014 Houston Dynamo roster breakdown player-by-player.
In 2013, Tally Hall started and completed every Houston Dynamo league match. An impressive feat to be sure, but he also did so in the fact of an ever-changing back line due to injuries and national team call-ups. There is no reason to expect anything different this season, unless somehow he magically gets the call to head to Brazil for World Cup 2014.
Backing up Tally are Tyler Deric and Michael Lisch. Deric has been Tally's backup since Tally took over the starting job from Pat Onstad. Lisch is a draftee with tremendous upside who will most likely see time with Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Houston Dynamo USL-Pro affiliate, this season on-loan.
Kofi Sarkodie and Bobby Boswell were the mainstays at defender starting in 38 and 37 of the team's matches respectively. Boswell left through the Re-Entry Draft to DC United. Sarkodie returns to the Dynamo for 2014, and should have the right back starting job wrapped up pretty tight.
Left back, Corey Ashe, missed some time during the regular season mostly due to injuries. He was given a shot at the US Gold Cup squad, but injured his leg and was unable to stay with them.
That leaves the two starting center backs. Most likely, it will be center back by committee with Jermaine Taylor, Eric Brunner and David Horst all vying for starting minutes. Jermaine Taylor played most of 2013 next to Boswell, but toward the end of the season he found himself sidelined with injuries. Stepping in admirably was Eric Brunner who did an admirable job with very little preparation time. David Horst was brought in via trade with Portland, re-uniting him with ex-Timber Eric Brunner. Horst should push Brunner, and possibly even Taylor for one of the two starting center back roles.
Backing up the main five will be sophmore Anthony Arena, Michael Chabala (we presume) and Alex Cochran. Arena found himself starting a couple of matches last season and played pretty well. Chabala also started a few matches when Corey Ashe was unable to play due to injury or yellow card accumulation. Alex Cochran is the rookie, but he possesses all of the skills and size to be a quality MLS starter in the future.
My oh my, are we unbelievably stacked at midfield or what? The 2013 season saw a few changes to the midfield starters due to injury and national team call-ups. Starters Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia have cemented their places in the midfield, and it would be astonishing if Ricardo Clark found himself relegated to a substitute role this season.
With the Dynamo likely to play in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, that leaves only one possible midfield starter to pick. Last season, Warren Creavalle found a significant spread of the games, but this season we could see a mixture of Creavalle, Alexander Lopez, Tony Cascio, Andrew Driver and Servando Carrasco. Not to mention Jason Johnson and Giles Barnes who can both play forward or midfield.
Warren Creavalle is a more box-to-box style Central Defensive Midfielder, finding himself all over the field to kill off breakaways, covering for the backline or even pressing a bit higher to win the ball before it transitions into an opposing attack. Servando Carrasco is a traditional CDM, playing deeper and closer to the center circle, but with a nice quality long ball over the top. Tony Cascio and Andrew Driver play as wingers primarily, and both have pace and touch on the ball as well as an ability to score from the run of play. The odd man out may actually be young designated player Alexander Lopez who has struggled to find his role for the Dynamo, and goes into 2014 guaranteed nothing.
A lot has been made about the forward/striker tandem of Will Bruin and Giles Barnes who soaked up the bulk of the 2013 season as starters up top. Will Bruin had a nose for goal in 2012, but he could not transition that success into 2013 where he missed repeated open net chances. Giles Barnes did well in the partner striker role alongside Bruin, but at times he seemed to draw back to try and find the game (note: the best forwards actually do that exact same thing. See: Thierry Henry, Mike Magee and even Wayne Rooney). Omar Cummings will also be more in the mix this season should he remain healthy and on the pitch. Cummings' pace should provide the perfect shift from Barnes and Bruin, and should give opposing defenders fits in the summer months.
Draftee Mark Sherrod joins a backup corps of Jason Johnson and Bryan Salazar. While that may seem relatively light, it is easy to forget Andrew Driver and Tony Cascio can shift to an up-top out wide role and distribute as necessary from the wings.
What do you think? Did I miss anyone?
Looking over the roster, I feel confident this team is built to succeed. While it isn't built to overpower teams with offensive explosions, it is built to wear them down and strike when they least expect it. This season's success will hinge on the back four's ability to quell counter attacks before they reach Tally, and their ability to find the elusive set piece magic the club has been known for in season's past.
EDIT: Oopsie! It seems I forgot Brian Ownby. Ownby was on-loan for almost the entirety of the 2013 season with Richmond Kickers. He had a phenomenal time there, becoming one of their standouts. He plays pacey and aggressively on the outside. My only concern for Ownby is a lack of playing time with so much midfield depth. Even with World Cup and International Friendlies, he's going to be hard-pressed to crack the starting XI or even the game day XVIII (18).