As the 2015 season ended in disappointment for the Houston Dynamo missing the playoffs, it's universally known that changes are needed this off season. A trial shortly after the season has the possibility of producing some new additions to the roster down the road. It appears during their one year affiliation with the USL's Charleston Battery, the Dynamo must have been impressed with some of the club's top players, enough to invite 3 of them to trial with the club this week and next, ending with a scrimmage against Houston's U-18 side. While the names of the other players in the pool are not known at this time, it's confirmed via a story on the Battery's official team website that the Battery's USL Defender of the Year finalist Shawn Ferguson, team captain Jarad van Schaik and late season addition, Cuban defector, Ariel Martinez are all in Houston currently. While this is far from a guaranteed roster spot for any of the auditioning players, these three could potentially be helpful to the Dynamo's 2016 campaign if they are offered a chance. And who better to explain their potential impact to you than a young, talented staff writer who not only covers Houston, but was also the Dynamo Theory writer assigned to covering the Battery this season.
Ferguson was on the USL's 1st team as a defender and was one of three finalists for the USL's Defender of the Year. Throughout the season, the 24 year old was tasked with defending the opposing club's top offensive threat. At 6-4 and 200 pounds, he is a very powerful, physical defender who also has enough pace to effectively deny the more athletic forwards good chances. As Dynamo fans know, defense has been an issue for Houston for years. The defensive unit has been consistently inconsistent. Ferguson is the type of young defender who can add a steady presence to an anything but steady backline.
Jarad van Schaik
The 2015 captain of the Charleston Battery, van Schaik is a great leader at the age of 26. He not only leads vocally, but also with his consistent play for Charleston over his 3 years with the club. He also comes into the trial with previous MLS experience, after training with Real Salt Lake who drafted him in 2011. His passing and strong defensive abilities in the midfield, coupled with his leadership are an intriguing idea for any club, especially one who may be losing a great passing midfielder with strong leadership and skill via trade.
While Martinez's match time with the Battery on the pitch was very short, nobody doubts the amazing talent of the Cuban forward. Prior to his Gold Cup defection, Martinez was considered the top talent on the Cuban National team. Known for his incredible dribbling and offensive ability with the ball at his feet, it was known when he signed with the Battery late in the 2015 season that MLS teams would come calling. The fit with Houston might be a very good one, with the aforementioned potential loss of Brad Davis, the Dynamo could be looking for another veteran to step in and help create on the offensive end, especially one who can provide similar dazzling, diagonal runs opposite of Giles Barnes.
This trial in Houston also provided the Battery boys an opportunity to unite, for at least the time being, with the player loaned to the Battery from Houston for the season, Memo Rodriguez. I asked Ariel Martinez how it was to be able to be on trial with Houston alongside teammates van Schaik and Ferguson, he said " It's a great opportunity to be here with them, they are good friends and good people. He also had positive things to say about his interaction so far with Owen Coyle and the rest of the Dynamo staff, "Super good, super good, I've loved it." A strong showing from this trial could provide any of these three with a training camp invite with a chance to make the squad in 2016.