At a very basic level, winning a soccer match is simple. Game to game, you have to scores more goals than you allow. There are obviously many more details involved, but after 30 games in 2010, the Houston Dynamo had allowed nine more goals than they had scored; and just like the six other MLS teams with negative goal differentials, the Dynamo missed the playoffs. The simplest of statistics tell the story of the 2010 season.
So what went wrong in 2010? Unlike the very black and white fact about goal differential, the root causes of the struggles for the Dynamo tend to drift in to many shades of grey.
Off the field, there was the loss of key contributors from the 2009 season and a lack of financial flexibility to properly fill those roster holes. On the field, it came down to an apparent lack of focus at key moments and a terrible run of form in the summer. If there was one thing Dynamo fans had come to expect from their team, it was a consistent and tenacious defense and for the first time, we didn't see enough of that from Dominic Kinnear's squad and it cost them.
There are other things worth considering as well. A 6-6-3 record at home, a drop in production from the forwards, and multiple injuries that kept key players off the field for extended periods of time. If you really want to simplify things, it just wasn't the Dynamo's year. This happens in sports and given the lack of depth and the names that had left Houston in the past two off-seasons, we probably should have seen it coming. You just don't replace players like Dwayne DeRosario, Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark and not expect to have issues. You can't trade away forwards like Kei Kamara and Chris Wondolowski (to be fair, nobody saw his season coming) and not expect to struggle to produce goals.
There was no real option for the central attacking midfield role when Geoff Cameron went down to injury. There was no consistent scoring option up front when Brian Ching went down to injury. More than all that, the defense which had been the backbone of this franchise since 2005, broke apart and made mistakes on a far to regular basis.
When healthy, we saw that the Dynamo could compete with anyone in MLS, the problem was they weren't healthy and there was no safety net for the injuries that hit the team. That alone is probably the most frustrating thing about the season for fans, we saw glimpses of how good the team was capable of being, but ultimately we didn't see the consistency that is required to be successful.
Throughout the off season, I'll look back in more detail at individual players, game and moments that helped define the 2010 season. Consider this the primer for a reexamination of the Dynamo as we move towards the Expansion Draft and the January transfer window, two events that will begin to define the team in 2011.
Along the way, I hope to hear from Dynamo fans with their thoughts about 2010 and your reactions to my thoughts and opinions. We've got to hurry though, as there are only 130 days until the 2011 season kicks off.