In previous years it seemed common place to have the Houston Dynamo make the postseason. After all, they had only missed out on them once since they began play ten years ago, in 2010, before they fell short each of the past two years.
Now they are at a different stage as a franchise. Their players are getting older, not as much young talent is coming, and they have a first-year coach at the helm. They're rebuilding. Fans don't want to hear it, but it's true: the future of this team is not Brad Davis, DaMarcus Beasley or Ricardo Clark. It may not even be with Giles Barnes after his second-half performance.
It's time for Owen Coyle to build around guys like Will Bruin, 25, and Cubo Torres, 22. Boniek Garcia, Tyler Deric and Jermaine Taylor won't be around forever.
There were three main reasons for the lack of playoff soccer in Houston:
1. The lack of a defensive midfielder
2. Giles Barnes's collapse
3. International call-ups, injuries and other ailments
We can go deeper into these at a later time, but for now let's focus this underrated goal by Clark:
The play starts with Luis Garrido intercepting a sloppy pass by the Seattle Sounders.
Garrido finds space and uses it, carrying the ball until being challenged by a Sounder. He knows that Davis is on the wing and will get open at some point.
The challenger arrives, and it just so happens to be the player that was supposed to be marking Davis.
Now the American has loads of space. He could easily dribble the ball to the corner and whip in one of his signature crosses. That is exactly what the defense expects him to do.
Davis receives the ball and looks over his options. There is a gap (in yellow) between two defenders at the top of the box, providing an entry way for a potential pass to a wide open Clark (circled in orange).
As you can see, the Sounders' defense is sitting very deep, and without a true defensive midfielder (what happens when you play a flat 4-4-2), the space in front of the backline is open. Clark exploits that.
As the ball arrives, Clark realizes how much space he has.
Being an exquisite long-range shooter, the Atlanta-native sets up for a shot. The backline remains extremely deep, with no one ready to prevent a shot.
Once Clark takes his first touch, two defenders sprint towards him, trying to at least block the shot.
But it seems as though he prepared for it, as he took a quick, short touch in order to release a shot as fast as possible.
Goalkeeper Stephan Frei was caught leaning the wrong way and the result was 1-0 Dynamo.
This is great vision by both Clark and Davis, veteran players who have been doing this for years. How fitting that this goal came on the day of Houston's 10th-anniversary celebration.