The Differential: Are Houston Dynamo really number 1 in MLS?

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

As public perception and acclaim grows for the Houston Dynamo, we face the unforeseen difficulty of asking one question - how good are we really?

After two victories to start the 2014 season, we know a couple things - Houston is #1 in the East, and standings mean absolutely nothing this early in the season.

That doesn't mean we can't be excited, it just means we should probably temper our excitement with the fact Chivas USA is #2 in the West. Sorry, Goats.

As always, we're here at The Differential to talk about what is standing between the Houston Dynamo and sweet, sweet, silverware. I'll put forth my Top-5 problems/concerns, and you can tell me how stupid I am in the comments.

1. Where Da Goals At?

I never thought I would say this, but here we go: I have no worries about Will Bruin producing this year. I did two weeks ago, but after his ridiculously lucky deflected goal this week, I am certain he is so filled with confidence even the laws of physics bend to his will.

That being said, I am curious as to who else is going to score regularly. Giles Barnes was the pre-season darling in terms of fan expectations. Yes, he's still playing well, but the longer he goes without a goal, the longer he could be facing a curse similar to 2013 Bruin.

2. Complete Games on Defense

People aren't scoring on us, but that may be because of our brilliance. Yet again we depended on last-second scrambles and goal-line clearances to keep a clean sheet. Will we be able to hold up against better competition in Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas in two and three weeks, respectively?

3. Next Man Up, Again

If we need instant impact from a midfield sub, who do we turn to? Right now, with Andrew Driver starting in place of the injured Tony Cascio, our sub is a default of Brian Ownby and Servando Carrasco.

However, Driver's run-and-gun style is much better suited to a 15-minute run-out, rather than 65 minutes of consistent production. If Cascio stays on the sidelines (for now), is there a better option?

I would suggest moving Boniek Garcia back out wide, despite his obvious excellence in the center of the field, and plugging Carrasco into the attacking midfield role. Or, if Dominic Kinnear wanted to get crazy, dropping Barnes back and bringing Omar Cummings into the Eleven.

Many of you may disagree, but if you want your best eleven players on the field, "Driver as starter" isn't one of them.

4 and 5. Where's the competition? And How Good Are We?

Realistically, we haven't played anyone good yet. New England Revolution are a mess (nice pick, Grant Wahl), and Montreal Impact were missing their best players.

Yet, despite these qualifiers, one outstanding performance and one nervy 1-0 win have left us #1 in Power Rankings and suddenly among the talk about MLS Cup hopefuls. Keep in mind that we were a common "team to just miss playoffs" pick according to SI's season preview.

What's changed? Not much, aside from Bruin's surge in scoring. The best in the East is either busy with CCL or playing uncharacteristically awful.

I think we're fairly adept as a fan base at avoiding over-inflating our team's worth. I don't believe we're actually the best in MLS, and you probably don't either. We're just currently better than a lot of under-performing challengers.

However, there is more talented competition coming after the bye. Vancouver is the only other MLS team with five goals through two games, and Frisco has added some excellent players in the offseason.

All the pessimism aside, enjoy this, Dynamo fans. We're starting better than any of us could have expected - that alone is enough to get excited about.

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