As the weather starts to turn back to spring - hopefully for good this time - the sports of spring are gearing up. What does this mean, you ask? Well, you already know the answer to that - it means that your Houston Dynamo are back and ready to open up the season.
Many Dynamo fans had a sour taste in their mouth after last season ended, but with a new season comes new hope and a new start. At this point, everybody is equal and in first place - it's just a matter of staying there. Saturday night, the Dynamo will try to do that as they host the New England Revolution at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The Dynamo's offseason has been covered to great extent here, but it's important to remember that the opposition has changed, as well. Longtime Revolution stalwart Matt Reis has retired, and Juan Agudelo has left - though to Dutch side FC Utrecht on loan, not to Stoke City, as many thought. Still, however, the better part of this roster: 2013 defender of the year Jose Goncalves and young sensation Diego Fangundez, among others, is still intact. On top of that, they've added players such as Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies to the mix, improving what was already a very good young roster.
I'm sure nobody needs a reminder of what happened the last time the Revolution visited BBVA Compass Stadium, where the Dynamo put in one of the more lackluster performances of the season and lost 0-2 on May 18th. The Dynamo did win one and draw one at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, but it's the home loss - one of four last season -that sticks with us. There's been ten months of waiting, but there's finally a chance to avenge that loss and start the season on a high note.
While Eric Brunner (ankle), Warren Creavalle (knee surgery), and Servando Carrasco (ankle) are still recovering, Jermaine Taylor does appear to be ready to return to MLS play after a foot injury sidelined him through the 2013 playoffs. A lot of the problems with the Dynamo defense last season were probably related to their inability to keep a consistent back line due to injuries and callups, so Taylor's return bodes well for that unit.
Also a good sign is the fact that unlike last year, Omar Cummings is not starting the season with an injury (knock on wood), meaning that he looks to be getting a full season to justify the money the Dynamo have paid him. And if Will Bruin doesn't somehow return to his 2012 form anytime soon, a healthy and scoring Cummings will be what the Dynamo need most. With the turnover in the forward corps, it's basically been left up to Cummings and Bruin to step up - either one or the other (or both - I wouldn't mind both) needs to step up this season.
And Saturday will be a chance for them to do that. It's a clean slate, a new start, and the moment when unchastened hopes and desires still run free. It's time to cry "once more unto the breach, dear friends!" and start the long eight month slog towards the playoffs. Every step the Dynamo take brings them one step closer to that ultimate goal - and they'll take that first step Saturday night. Will they make the best of it? Only time - ninety minutes of it, to be exact - will tell.
But whatever happens, it's time to buckle up. The Dynamo are back, and I, for one, welcome them.