During the Generation Orange podcast this week, Hal Kaiser asked a very interesting question. "Are the players we have currently on the Houston Dynamo roster good enough as-is to make a run at MLS Cup this season?" After the three defeats, some might be inclined to think the Dynamo don't have the right pieces. I tend to lean the other way in the belief the pieces are there, but the most important ones have faltered mightily whether by their own accord or of some other devious plan.
Some people would say things like injuries, mental lapses and scoring droughts happen to the best teams. It wasn't all that long ago the Supporters Shield winning New York Red Bulls Head Coach Mike Petke went so far as to bench superstar Thierry Henry during one of his particularly long scoring droughts. I could name any number of injured players from any other club, past or present, and so that excuse is nothing more than exactly that, an excuse.
It is the third one, however, which stings the most.
Mental lapses are one of those things you would expect to see addressed and some sort of tangible improvement from game to game. After all, they are the most damaging kind of play in a match, and most of all, they are self-inflicted. Yet, here we sit after five matches, and really if we look back at the majority of last year as well, with no noticeable improvement.
There isn't just one player I can single out either as probably three or four players could arguably be pointed out. Kofi Sarkodie for the controversial handball in the box, Jermaine Taylor for repeated offenses and a lack of effort on key plays and Will Bruin for hibernating after such a strong start are just the top three which I can come up with off the top of my head.
I'm willing to give Sarkodie the pass because his was a single instance, and the result of a turnover of possession higher up the pitch which he had no part in. The other two are quickly becoming major issues which cannot be stressed enough.
Jermaine Taylor is no longer an elite center back, and I'd venture to say he's not even putting in enough effort for a full 90 to warrant a starting center back position on a bad team. Mental lapses are correctable, but when a player gives up on a play looking for an offsides flag and then jogs to the play slowly leaving the other defenders scrambling frantically to cover, that's just unacceptable for a professional soccer player at any level.
Will Bruin is not an elite goal scorer, nor is he an elite striker or forward. He's had flashes, and you don't have to look farther than the first game against New England. But flashes die out quickly, and this team needs consistency at the top of the formation. Simply put, he isn't bringing us an MLS Cup anytime soon.
So back to the original question, does this team currently have the pieces to make a run at MLS Cup this year? My answer is still yes, and the reasons are simple.
David Horst. Alec Cochran. Mark Sherrod.
We've already replaced the aged like a good ol' whiskey, Bobby Boswell, with defensive stalwart David Horst. Perhaps it is time for Jermaine Taylor to take a seat on the bench for a few matches. Who do you pair up with Horst in that instance? Alec Cochran, or really even Anthony Arena. Both of these guys deserve a shot, and each has shown capable of handling the pressure.
That leaves Will Bruin. Where, oh where has the Bear gone? On Twitter someone asked me about Will Bruin and my response sums up my thoughts. The best strikers and forwards go through slumps all the time, but they still find ways to influence and contribute even if it isn't with goals. When Bruin struggles to score, he tends to disappear entirely from matches. The answer is Mark Sherrod, and a nice pine ride for the Bumbling Bear.
Just a couple of changes, and they aren't drastic ones even. Especially with how these two players have played the last few matches. Sure they may pull themselves out of their poor form without having to be put on the bench, but how long can we truly afford to wait?