In their second season I expect the Houston Dash to be more competitive than this season. We still don't know if any teams will join the expansion ranks, or what player movement we might see. Plenty can still happen, and there will most likely be a trade or two before the college draft next year.
Essentially, much like the Houston Dynamo, there will be some new faces, and there will be some old. In year two, the big question will be whether the team can avoid the injury bug unlike their inaugural season. I think to some degree the team took some risk with taking on injury-prone players who have higher ceilings than some of the more "durable" players available at the time.
I know it has been a bit round about, but stick with me just a bit longer.
The first NWSL season saw Western New York Flash competing in the Final for the title against Portland Thorns. The Flash have already flashed out of playoff contention, and the Thorns are on the cusp of missing out on the playoffs as well. Quite a difference a season makes.
Fast forward to this offseason and the Houston Dash won't sit tight. They'll make moves, they'll bolster positions in need of improvement. Randy Waldrum, Chris Canetti and Brian Ching will make decisions to improve the team, and we'll all (eventually) come to grips with them.
Will the Dash contend for the playoffs next season? Yes. Will they be in the playoffs next season? Yes. Only time will tell if I'm right.
Giles Barnes was quite the find for the Houston Dynamo. While he may not be as prolific as say Thierry Henry their play styles are similar. Their price points, however, are not, and therein lies the value in finding those diamonds in the rough. That has been a staple of Dominic Kinnear teams.
Value players over elite players. Perhaps to the detriment of the quality ceiling of the team at times, but always allowing the team to remain competitive on and off the pitch.
A lot of fans look at this season and shake their heads. We've lost a lot of matches we had no business losing, and the team couldn't win for eight straight matches. Yet, here we find ourselves once again staring at a playoff push with just two major changes to the roster. The team's quality has always been there, but it is a sum of it's parts, not just a couple of specific parts.
Young, former EPL academy players out of contract are a great value grab, and usually their quality is of a different sort. Some fans deride Barnes because at times he seems to be behind the play, chasing the game. The reality is very different in that he is behind the play so he can see it develop and pick and choose his runs or his passes. There's a reason Will Bruin has had a number of good chances, and there's a reason Barnes has as many shots as he had this season.
I know scoring is the king of all stats for forwards, but I view Barnes as something of a trequartista who just happens to play more of a forward role than most. By contrast, new signing Luis Garrido reminds me of a budding regista who sits above the back line and picks out passing lanes from behind. In both cases, neither player should be high-end goal scorers, but they should provide support to the attack and be a hinge point at times. And they are.
Suffice it to say, I love the idea of more players like Barnes who see the game with an entirely different vision. There's an art to the way they play overseas, and the more we can tap into that, the more likely we are to find ourselves ahead of the curve rather than behind.
I personally haven't seen or heard any hints from either side regarding the renewal of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and at this point that seems about par for the course. I think we can look at the recent MLS national broadcasting deal as a step from the league to try to encourage the players of the viability of the league, and to help ensure owners pocketbooks are amply protected with any increase in salary cap or operating expenses.
I think the push for more player development at the youth levels with heavier involvement from clubs is also a hint at what will find its way into the CBA for 2015 and beyond. But nothing specific will be said anytime soon, and we all just have to stick our hands in our pockets and kick the dirt as we wait around for things to start moving.
I will go on record now and say I don't believe a lockout is likely, and fully expect a full 2015 season with more salary cap space and more budget for player development as well as to sign a couple of more veteran players.
I have the point total for the playoff line at 48 points right now. That seems like a lot compared to previous seasons, but this MLS season hasn't exactly been par for the course by any stretch of the imagination. With that said, the Houston Dynamo currently sit at 22 points, meaning they need 26 points over their final 12 matches. By my math, they can drop only 10 points over those 12 matches.
It isn't impossible, but it will take a good, solid unbeaten streak to make it happen. I've looked over the schedule, consulted with my personal points guru (he knows who he is), and have the team pegged at 7 wins out of the next 12 matches and 2 draws. That leaves 3 losses in 12 matches, which accounts for exactly 45 points on the season and has them in 6th place just out of contention.
However, it isn't impossible for the Dynamo to pick up a win in any of those games I have as losses currently, but it does mean every game from here on out is essentially must win. There's too much team clutter in the Eastern Conference for any team to feel comfortable losing even just one match over this second half of the season.
For the Dynamo to make the playoffs, I believe they need a record of (W-L-D) 8-2-2 or better, which leaves very little room for the team to drop points in any matches remaining.
As always, you're free to leave your own responses to the questions above in the comments below, and to offer your own questions for the next #DTQA post in 2 weeks time.