This past year and season for the Houston Dynamo is now nearly at its calendar conclusion as 2015 is upon us. 2014 brought ups and downs for the team including several costly injuries, call-ups throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup process, the development of iron man Giles Barnes, a center back identity crisis, and the signing of two quality players in Luis Garrido and US Men's National Team legend DaMarcus Beasley. These highs and lows from this past season will considerably shape how the Dynamo and new head coach Owen Coyle will approach the new season. So let's take a brief look at some of the things to look forward to in the coming year.
A Full Season with Garrido and DMB
If the Dynamo made no personnel moves in the off-season this would be one of the most important reasons to look ahead to the new season. DaMarcus Beasley has usurped former MLS All-Star Corey Ashe from the left back position and has inserted his veteran leadership to help guide the backline. Beasley was able to provide cover to the central defense while being able to become an occasional threat on the offensive side of the ball. If Beasley can remain healthy, the Dynamo will have one of the best left backs in the league which raises an important question about where Corey Ashe fits into the Dynamo plans for the future.
The big surprise late last season was how quickly Luis Garrido adapted to MLS and how much his level of play overshadowed the DaMarcus Beasley signing. His partnership with Ricardo Clark is easily a top 3 central midfield pairing. Garrido and Clark are both naturally defensive midfielders, but Garrido's gifted tackling, which is albeit at times over the top and reckless, affords Clark opportunities to move forward and use abilities to find attackers or strike a shot from distance. The two will now have a full season to disrupt play in the center of the field, intercept passes, and make traversing the Dynamo midfield a tough and sometimes painful feat to accomplish.
How will Owen Coyle Shape this Team?
As a huge supporter of Dominic Kinnear, it's hard for me to imagine what this team will be like without him at the helm. It's a hard thing for anyone to do since he's been our one and only coach until recently. Still, there are many unknowns with newly appointed head coach Owen Coyle and how he can affect this team. Opinions among the Dynamo faithful vary from fan to fan with some citing how his creative and attacking style of play helped the Bolton Wanderers achieve relevancy in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, leagues in the world. Others cite how injuries derailed his side and saw his Wanderers relegated and his short stint with Wigan Athletic. Furthermore, foreign coaches have struggled in Major League Soccer due to differences in rules, travel, and overall understanding of the league.
It would be an extremely difficult task to accurately predict how Coyle will do in his first year with the Orange, but there are plenty of things that we do know. First, Coyle was incredibly smart trying to keep assistants Tim Hanley, Steve Ralston, and Wade Barrett, and though it looks as if Barrett will be the only assistant remaining in Houston as Hanley and Ralston look to rejoin Dominic Kinnear in San Jose, Barrett will make transitioning to the league seamless along with his insight to the squad and the players. Second, we know the squad and the players. This was a very talented squad last year but was hit hard by scheduling/call-ups and injuries. This squad has a lot of promise going into the next season and there's one huge reason to get excited because....
Cubo Torres Signed with the Dynamo
Which of course you already knew about. But having Erick "Cubo" Torres brings a lot to a club that was lacking in firepower the previous year as they finished fourth from the bottom in finishing overall despite taking a middle of the pack number of shots. Cubo, known for his prowess in and around the penalty area, was a serious threat while playing for Chivas USA, one of the poorer teams last year. Putting him in a squad with players that can provide him excellent service like Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, and Oscar Boniek Garcia must be simply terrifying to Dynamo foes. Another interesting question left by inserting Cubo into the starting lineup is that it means someone must go to the bench. So who goes? Bruin and Barnes were our forwards so one of them may see time in a super-sub role, but Barnes's flexibility, playmaking and natural positioning in the midfield could force a midfield player to fall back to the bench after his outstanding 2014 season with the team. One thing is clear about the importance of this signing: we will be scoring more goals in 2015.
Renewed Rivalry with FC Dallas
I mean Frisco. I know that Sporting Kansas City will be joining us as we move to the ultra-competitive Western Conference and our games with them will still be as intense and physical as ever, but our real rival is our in-state one. One with whom we need to reclaim a certain cannon. Since our move to the Eastern Conference games against Dallas have taken on less meaning. Not that they weren't important, but just beating those Dallasites (which I must mention rhymes with parasites) there wasn't the opportunity to beat a conference opponent and really separate from them. We'll get to play more league games against Dallas this coming year and if you aren't excited about the chance to beat Dallas in meaningful games more than once a year then I feel sorry for you.
The next year will bring a lot of surprises not listed on here yet, but there's still plenty to look forward to. Feel free to share any of your favorite moments from last season or things you can't wait to see next season in the comment section.