A long, arduous campaign has finally come to a (mathematical) end for the Houston Dynamo. After 33 matchdays, the men in orange have been officially eliminated from playoff contention and go into the final game of the year with no more weight on their shoulders.
Owen Coyle and his coaching staff now begin to shift their thoughts to 2016 and move on from a rebuilding season. What that likely means over the weekend is a rare glimpse at some of the underplayed and younger talent off the bench. That could mean minutes for players like Mauro Manotas, Rasheed Olabiyi, Alex Lopez, and, yes, Erick Torres.
Cubo Torres has been on the minds of many fans as of late following a successful week of Olympic qualifying for the Mexican national team. That week saw Cubo consistently involved, scoring goals and tallying assists - a far cry from his rather ineffectual run of play for the Dynamo. Between contract negotiations for Will Bruin (who had a terrific year) and rumors of how Cubo Torres might (or might not) fit in the team, Houston is heading for potentially a bigger shakeup next season than the one ten months ago.
While Houston did earn a surprising result over Vancouver at home recently, the Whitecaps -- once Supporters Shield contenders -- have found themselves in a rut as of late and need a victory over the Dynamo to ensure a favorable playoff seeding. With Houston expected to field a fresh lineup, the Whitecaps are deservedly the favorites headed into the regular season finale.
The Dynamo end the year playing for pride. There were moments of greatness and other moments firmly on the other end of the spectrum throughout the year. It's true that one or two results swayed the other way might find the Dynamo in the playoffs, but that is the way the beautiful game goes -- doubly so in the ultra-competitive Western conference.
Houston are to be commended for their performance despite adversities and a team makeup very different from the year before. Still, questions of the players and the coaching staff remain and in a few short months, fans will find their answers. Whether they are the answers that fans want is another story though it is safe to say that the masses will not tolerate three consecutive seasons without playoffs. No pressure.
The Houston Dynamo end the year in Vancouver on Sunday, October 25th at 6:00PM CT as part of MLS' Decision Day. The match is broadcast locally on ROOT Sports and can be tuned in at 1560AM and 850AM.