The Dynamo begin the 2012 MLS Season on Saturday back at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. No doubt we all remember the last time Houston was there, so while the opponent will be different, the wounds will still be fresh. Instead of the Galaxy, Dominic Kinnear and the Dynamo will face Chivas USA in the first of the season-opening, two-month, seven-match road trip as they await construction on BBVA Compass Stadium to wrap up.
Chivas USA begins it's second season under current head coach Robin Fraser with much of the same uncertainty hovering over a franchise that finished 8th in the Western Conference in 2011. Fraser has made major changes during the off-season, releasing or trading nearly half of the players from 2011 and bringing a load of new faces on board. Justin Braun and Zarek Valentin are the biggest names that were traded away in the off-season, but those moves opened up room for the likes of James Riley, who should help the defense, and Ryan Smith, who can hopefully boost the Goats' woeful attack. Fraser also signed three South American players, midfielder Oswaldo Minda, midfielder/forward Miller Bolanos and center back John Valencia, who should be a big upgrade for Chivas' back line.
The big question of course for Chivas USA is will these and other changes be enough to get them in the playoffs from a tough Western Conference.
The Dynamo head to California healthy and looking to finish what they started in 2011. The loss to the Galaxy in MLS Cup 2011 left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth, so the motivation to get back for another shot at the title is even stronger than normal.
Starting the season on the road for two months won't help, but the Dynamo and fellow Eastern Conference finalist Sporting Kansas City both proved last season that it's not how you start in MLS, it's how you finish. So despite the travel, the Dynamo look set to be much more consistent throughout the entire season.
In goal there are no issues. Tally Hall is a wall and will look to eclipse his first full season as the Dynamo starter in which he nearly single-handedly kept Houston in the playoff hunt for the first few months of the season.
The defense is set following a tumultuous 2011 that saw so many different lineup variations rolled out, everyone lost track. Geoff Cameron will start in the middle with Bobby Boswell, with Corey Ashe and Andre Hainault the first choice fullbacks.
The only question facing Kinnear is the midfield is who will take over on the right wing. Danny Cruz is gone, so the job appears to be waiting for either Colin Clark or Je-Vaughn Watson to step in and make the role his own. If neither player can get the job done, don't be surprised to see a big move in the summer to try to shore up this position. Brad Davis is recovering well from his quadriceps injury, while Luiz Camargo and Adam Moffat will again form the spine of the midfield.
Up front, the Dynamo will be looking to continue their prolific goal-scoring ways from the preseason where Ching, Bruin and company tallied 21 goals in 12 matches between them. Calen Carr and new signing Macoumba Kandji will bolster the attack and provide speed options. While Cam Weaver and rookie Colin Rolfe offer depth.
Predicted Dynamo Lineup: Hall, Hainault, Boswell, Cameron, Ashe, Moffat, Clark, Davis, Camargo, Ching, Bruin
Predicted Score: 2-0 Dynamo