The season has been over for weeks but now's the time to reflect on a year of Houston Dynamo performances, starting with the players. There were hurdles (injuries and absences) and a plague of inconsistency but certainly other bright moments worth remembering. Can the Dynamo come back in 2016 and compete? Did they get any answers from this season? Our writers Harrison Hamm, Derek Stowers, and myself try to tackle the Dynamo roster as part of our Roundtable series.
Justin: Let's start at the back with a guy that dominated Save-of-the-Week nominations early in the year (or, what managing editor Alicia likes to call, "Deric-of-the-Week"). Do the Dynamo need to bother with tinkering at the goalkeeper position?
Harrison: Tyler Deric and Joe Willis are a very capable 1-2 goalkeeper combination. Deric is athletic enough to cover almost the entire goal and is one of the best keepers in MLS at stopping one-on-one situations. His weakness is when he's at his feet. He had the lowest goal-kick accuracy of any keeper that played more than 20 games this season, as well as the lowest overall pass success rate. His ability to save virtually any kind of shot offsets that, though.
Derek: Between the two, we have excellent shot-stoppers. Both need to work on their decision making with the ball (as Harrison said) but in this league, they're both very capable.
Justin: For his spectacular start, Deric seemed to struggle in the second half of the year, dropping save percentages, leaking in about a goal per match, and finding shutouts a rare achievement. How much do you guys attribute that to Deric and how much to the four guys in front of him?
Harrison: A lot of the goals from the second half of the season were a result of breakaway opportunities that were basically unsaveable. The loss of Jermaine Taylor really hurt the central defense and allowed teams to break the backline more often. It's hard to blame Deric.
Derek: I think a lot of that has been a result of the midfield. There's been a struggle transitioning to offense, leading to turnovers in costly areas. That lends itself to more defensive mistakes because there's more chances to make mistakes. It's very difficult to place blame on goalkeepers for that.
Justin: Harrison, you mentioned Jermaine Taylor's absence midway through the season. What do you think was missing without Taylor and how do you think Raul Rodriguez and David Horst played when covering for his absence?
Harrison: Without Taylor, they were missing someone that played with the team for years and was a big role in the defense. Rodriguez and Horst did a pretty good job in Taylor's absence, I must say, but at times looked a little shaky - especially when playing out of the back.
Derek: I agree. Horst actually had one of his best seasons of his career and I credit Raul for that - they worked very well together. Horst and Taylor are very similar, hard-tackling defenders but I think Horst solidified himself as the better of the two due to his growth this year. I'm really satisfied with a back four of Beasley, Rodriguez, Horst, and Williams. Boniek could be a solid option at right back to cover for injuries - though definitely not against Fabian Castillo.
Justin: There were times, though, when the ways defenders were used was puzzling. Horst ran up for corners that were played short or Williams' long throw abilities went unused. The Dynamo weren't great at holding possession and when defenders are misused, you're flirting with disaster.
Harrison: Good point. When they did send in real corners, Rodriguez scored twice and Horst came pretty close a few times. The Dynamo should be one of the best in the league at set pieces.
Justin: It's the way of the old Dynamo. Speaking of which, we've tacked another year onto Brad Davis and Ricardo Clark. Davis had struggles in the first half of the year but Clark logged a banner season as an attacking midfielder. All things considered, should the Dynamo look to replace them? [Ed. Note - this discussion took place before news broke that Davis could be moving and Clark might be headed for Free Agency]
Derek: Davis largely succeeded this year from the center of the pitch and showed his usefulness in creating chances for everyone and Clark proved his age isn't a factor. Rico was second in team scoring and helped in key areas when forwards weren't producing. Davis might need to prove himself next year but should still feature.
Justin: There were a few players that were tested on the right side, with Leonel Miranda seeming to hold the spot. Some fans weren't big on Boniek, either. Was this position a weakness?
Harrison: I wouldn't say weakness, necessarily, but it wasn't a strength by any means. Miranda's on loan so, unless the Dynamo decide they want to sign him permanently, he isn't the future there. Boniek is better used on defense for right now (unless FC Dallas are the opponent). Right mid could definitely improve but I wouldn't call it a priority. Barnes is also an option because he can succeed at most places in the midfield and up front.
Justin: Glad you brought that up. As a buy option, did Miranda do enough to warrant a home in Houston?
Harrison: He's young and promising - a trait that not enough Dynamo players have. They shouldn't break the bank to sign him but I'm okay with giving him a contract.
Derek: Coyle tried to give him time to prove it. I love his ability to spread the field, get his heels on the sideline, and he's certainly creative. He's a great option but we'll have to see how it plays out. Midfield is definitely where to turn attention in the offseason.
Justin: Let's talk Cubo. He had a pretty poor run after overcoming a lot of hurdles just to get to town. Now, it looks like he might be on his way out. Is it workable to transfer Torres and upgrade a position while re-signing Bruin?
Derek: I think it is. Bruin has shown up as a consistent presence year after year. I admired his growth in off-the-ball runs and passing this year, and he still managed to score despite less possession in the final third of the field. Coyle seems to have an affinity for Bruin and Barnes the way Kinnear did and Cubo looks the odd man out. If Cubo's traded, though, we'll never know what his potential could have been.
Harrison: I'm not ready to give up on Cubo just yet. I understand he had a pretty disappointing season and holds transfer market value but this is a guy with a serious future on the Mexican national team. He's a talented kid and, with the right kind of coaching, he can turn into a real star. They should find a way to keep both Bruin and Torres.
Derek: I'd really like to see Bruin and Torres work together better and an offseason could serve them both well. I also love Manotas' development and he could be a real option off the bench. He's created chances but needs more confident finishing.
Harrison: Bruin and Torres up top could work like a traditional two-striker pairing: one feeds the other, makes dummy runs, and combines with the other forward. It may be a bit of a stretch but if it works, it could be comparable to Dempsey and Martins.
Justin: This year saw overhauls for front office, coaches, and the roster. Despite the rebuild, the team still came just a couple results shy of playoffs. Did this team underperform, overperform, or just... perform?
Derek: We were at par with many expectations. We all hoped the Dynamo would sneak into the playoffs but knew it was a long shot. There were plenty of great moments this year but plenty of forgettable ones as well. Experiments failed - some succeeded - and we learned that losing 8 or more players definitely is a bad thing.
Harrison: The team simply performed. They were the pinnacle of average in MLS and were incredibly inconsistent. The hindrances that kept players out of the starting XI couldn't have been avoided. Some players were huge this season (Bruin and Clark are prime examples), some were good at points (Barnes and Deric), while others never really reached their potential (Cubo, obviously). It's hard to call this season a failure but it's impossible to call any season a success when you miss the playoffs in this league.