It's been well-publicized that the 2015 MLS campaign was less than perfect for the Houston Dynamo. A second straight playoff-less season was not what the club was looking for when they hired coach Owen Coyle to replace Dominic Kinnear. While Coyle's job is not in question at this point in time, he will need to make sufficient improvements to the team if they are going to compete next year.
Here is where Houston need to get better for the 2016 season:
1. Get younger
In the Dynamo's last meaningful match, a 1-1 draw against the Sounders on October 18th, the average age of the starters was 28, with Brad Davis, DaMarcus Beasley, Ricardo Clark, Boniek Garcia and David Horst all at or above the age of 30. Only Independiente loanee Leonel Miranda was under the age of 25.
The most obvious thing the Dynamo need to do in the offseason is get younger. The core of their team, Davis, Clark and Beasley, are 34, 32, and 33. There are a few ways to accomplish this task: stick with the same people and hope Erick Torres, Memo Rodriguez and Mauro Manotas develop (not the best solution); sell a couple squad rotation players (Kofi Sarkodie, Nathan Sturgis-type) and then use the money to buy some cheap 20-year olds that could either go on loan somewhere or sit behind the older guys (again, not a great one); or they could sell Davis while he's still valuable and use the cash-there should be plenty of it-to either pick up a series of talented youngsters or trade up in the draft.
The latter is the most reasonable from my eyes, as much as everyone would hate to see Brad go.
Or, as an alternative to the above hypotheticals, Houston could go the FC Dallas route and develop players in-house to eventually be the Dynamo's version of Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo. It may take a bit longer, but it could definitely work.
Whichever road they take, I hope it's not the NYCFC one, where you go and buy every washed-up, 35-year old European superstar you can see. But I find that unlikely. After all, it's been proven that old DPs don't guarantee wins.
2. Defensive midfielder
Defensive midfielders don't get the recognition that other positions get, but it is important nonetheless. In MLS, it has become crucial to winning. Here's a look at some of the top CDMs currently in the league:
-Perry Kitchen (D.C. United)
-Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls)
-Matias Laba (Vancouver Whitecaps)
-Diego Chara (Portland Timbers)
-Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew)
Four of these five players are on playoff teams, and three of those play for clubs that are still alive.
The Houston Dynamo need a solid number-six, not a rotating cast of central midfielders that will occasionally go forward or stay back depending on whatever their preference is at the time. The defense was not bad by any means this season, but when you don't have anybody sitting in front of the backline consistently, you'll allow plenty of goals.
This is huge for the Dynamo in the offseason. I know it is hard to find someone as good as Chara or Kitchen, but finding somebody is key.
3. Midfield/fullback depth
As I alluded to earlier, the Dynamo are too old. The current core is aging, so it is necessary to have good backups at certain positions in order to provide relief and eventually a replacement for players like Davis and Beasley if they are kept.
For Davis, another winger is required. Miranda may or may not stay in Texas as he can go back to Argentina at any time and Garcia is 31 and could have to spend time at full-back, so right now, Alex Lima and Alex Lopez are backup wingers.
Beasley is 33 and injury-prone, so at this point, another full-back is imperative. The acquisition of Sheanon Williams was a success mid-season, but at left-back, only Sarkodie and Garcia can relieve the US-international. Sarkodie was not very good this year, while Boniek should really be playing in the midfield.
Without capable alternates for Davis and Beasley, the team cannot move forward.