As much as we ride the Houston Dynamo for being just plain bad on the pitch the last couple of months, I can't sit here and chuckle. The team find themselves three points out of 5th place, which would see them through to the playoffs. The only problem is at this point in the season every team in the East save Philadelphia Union have at minimum a game in-hand.
What has changed from last season to this season? Very little for the Houston Dynamo. From the Starting XI we saw make a pretty fun run through the playoffs last year the team returned 10. The only player not in a Dynamo uniform is Bobby Boswell, and you have to entertain the thought the defensive lapses we saw taking shape last year were largely mitigated by Boswell's cover.
I, admittedly, called for Boswell's departure, but perhaps I was a bit too rushed in my judgement.
The major issue this season, really, has been consistency. We've talked about it numerous times, but it bears repeating again. This team simply can't field their starting XI for more than a single match at a time. We saw the effect of having a nearly complete XI against New York Red Bulls.
We've seen injuries along the back line. We've seen injuries up top. We've seen injuries in the midfield. Frankly, this team has been hampered by more injuries than an NFL squad of 53! It is unfortunate, but eventually all teams will struggle with this sort of season. Whether it be self-induced or otherwise.
Heck, it wasn't that long ago New York Red Bulls were a circus and Sporting Kansas City couldn't hold the Houston Dynamo jockstrap in the offseason, but here we are in this new MLS version. We were the first team to sign multiple veterans under the new CBA from 2010. The result is what we have now, a salary cap situation with very little wiggle room.
While teams around us have secured long-term Designated Player deals for players like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, even Jermaine Defoe, we're sitting on our hands unable to truly make the moves we need to make.
Some of you will want to know who to blame, and before you go chomping at the bit let me stick up for our ownership. They've been willing to splash cash when the opportunities presented themselves. They've been willing to take a gamble on a player of Latin descent when opportunities presented themselves.
The reality is no matter how much we may think of our city, players elsewhere don't have the same opinion. Houston is beloved by those who live here, but it is derided for its humidity and heat for a reason.
Players have to be willing to come to Houston, and sometimes that hurts the ability of a team to acquire elite level players. Not everyone wants to play in Manaus for an entire Major League Soccer season. Heck, I'd venture to say it is also partly why the Dynamo struggled to fill seats even when the team was doing well.
It's just the reality of things, and until the offseason we are strapped to who we have. We aren't so bad when everyone is healthy and available, but we haven't seen that much.
But that leads me into my next bit, who I think we should keep and who I think we should let go.
Tally Hall should go. He is an excellent goalkeeper and he will pull in a decent amount of offers from within MLS and maybe some outside as well. The biggest boon to making this move is Tyler Deric's cap hit is so much less than Hall's for what amounts to relatively the same amount of on-field production.
Tyler Deric should stay. See above.
Michael Lisch should stay as the primary backup. He played multiple games for Pittsburgh and has shown very well there. In upcoming seasons he could get the necessary training at the pro level, and maybe in 3-5 seasons even take over for Deric full time.
Corey Ashe should stay unless the situation arises you can bring in a better left back, or you feel confident in Kofi Sarkodie playing left back while slotting Warren Creavalle in at right back. Ashe still has something left to give, but he's been injury plagued the last few seasons and it has only become worse this season. His time may simply be at hand.
Jermaine Taylor should definitely go. While he still has something left to give, he simply isn't cutting it against quality strikers and forwards, and I've seen him give up on plays mentally way before the play concluded. Mentally, he may just need a chance elsewhere. That salary cap hit, too, though.
Davis Horst should absolutely stay. He is our current version of Bobby Boswell with some Eddie Robinson thrown in. He is aerially dominant defensively, but could use some work on set pieces. His biggest asset is he plays the game hard, and he leaves everything on the pitch each game. Also, I'm a Horstie so of course he should stay.
AJ Cochran should stay. He's young, he's talented and with more time with David Horst and the rest of the back line I feel like he can be a standout over multiple years. He is still somewhat raw in making those rookie mistakes, but those are things you learn playing the game at the pro level.
Eric Brunner should stay unless an opportunity comes knocking. He's struggled coming back from offseason surgery, but with a bit more time I think he could round back into form. Still, if an offer comes around, he'd be on my block to move elsewhere.
Anthony Arena same as Brunner. I'd hold onto him unless the opportunity arose from another club to bring in a solid asset. That cap hit is as minimal as it gets, though.
Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia should stay. Um...duh. Well, unless you get a solid transfer request from abroad for Boni, then yes he should go. It needs to be substantial though, and I don't see that happening.
Andrew Driver should be careful to not let the door hit him on the way out. He's been bad this season, to the point he looks nothing like his 2013 form and with no signs of improving. His crosses have been poor, he looks as bad right as he does left, and he's exhausted his moves when taking defenders on one v one along the outside.
Ricardo Clark should stay, but only if he agrees to a lesser contract. His age and the concussion issue are lingering, even if he is playing. He's still a pivot point for our offense (and defense), and he is still very good at his position. That cap hit hurts though.
Alexander Lopez should stay. He's been productive in limited minutes, but he needs to show more tracking back at least to Dominic Kinnear. He's looked solid to me tracking back when I've watched him, and as a player who plays primarily high up the pitch he isn't ever going to be the type to immediately track back. Would love to see him as a trequartista.
Warren Creavalle should maybe stay. I'm kind of torn on Warren. He's a gifted athlete with a lot of talent, but he is very slow to react to opposing teams counter attacks. With this iteration of MLS being heavily counter attack based, I just don't see a good prospect for him at CDM long-term.
Servando Carrasco should stay if Warren goes. He is a quality backup, but should not be a long-term starter (for now). Maybe in 2-3 years when Rico is ready to call it quits he could take over full-time, but I'm not ready to say that yet. If Warren stays I'm not sure it's necessary to keep Carrasco unless you like the Alex Morgan effect.
Brian Ownby should stay. He's still very inexpensive, and he is a decent backup at midfielder/winger. He's also talented, but he needs some mental training from Eddie Robinson. Not the long-term answer at either wide midfield position though.
Giles Barnes should stay. He is a big part of the offense at times, and he has shown he can find the net. Also, he's as committed to the game as he's ever been, and with the next guy needing to be on his way out he will be vital to our long-term success.
Omar Cummings should be gone. I love Omar, and I love what he brings to the team. He works hard as heck, and he plays hard. He is always trying, even when the team is struggling. If anything, injecting him into the offense usually sparks more chances. But the primary concern has to be his age, and I believe it is time he took a much-deserved retirement.
Will Bruin should be careful to not let the fans kick him on the way out the door. Listen, he's a good player, at times. He's talented. He's good at finding the net, at times. Reality says he's overstayed his welcome in the fans eyes, and that isn't changing anytime soon. When it's you and the goalkeeper 6 yards from goal and you kick it at the keeper, it's time to take your gifts somewhere that can help you. Clearly, he's done here.
Jason Johnson should...go. I'm done with him. I liked him in USOC, but at this point he should be pressing for starter minutes not seeing time on the bench in Pittsburgh. He's super talent, but also still super raw. He plays the game the right way, and I know teams elsewhere would be willing to put up something for him.
I've given my thoughts, and now I want yours. Who should we keep and who should we let go this offseason?