In my most recent article about where the Houston Dynamo need to improve for next season, I emphasized the importance of getting younger. They took the first step toward doing exactly that with their second major move of the offseason, after declining options on seven players a week ago. The Dynamo received Cristián Maidana and Andrew Wenger in a trade with the retooling Philadelphia Union.
Maidana, 28, will fill a gaping hole for Owen Coyle's side at center attacking midfielder. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, which Coyle may decide to use more frequently in 2016, you need someone to sit behind the lone striker and distribute to runners on the flanks and use the space in the middle to find other attackers. Houston put Giles Barnes in that role multiple times in 2015, but he isn't necessarily a chance creator. Maidana's a pure playmaker, and will certainly help in that previously weak department next year.
He plays like a second forward rather than a midfielder some of the time, as the Argentine pays no attention to defense, doesn't score goals and likes to drift off towards the flanks at times. That doesn't mean Maidana should be played as one, but he will certainly act like that's his position occasionally.
The former Spartak Moscow man had a career year with the Union in 2015, recording 15 assists to place himself second behind MVP Sebastian Giovinco. He is an expert at hitting that last ball over or through the opposing backline, and while last year it was C.J. Sapong and Sebastian Le Toux getting on the end of those balls, next March it will be Bruin and Barnes.
It's not like Maidana's comparable to other elite playmakers in MLS, like Mauro Diaz of FC Dallas or Lee Nguyen of the New England Revolution, but he has that potential. Coaches from eight other teams spanning three continents couldn't find it, but maybe Coyle will.
Wenger, 24, will provide young depth across the field. He'll probably get playing time on the wings when relieving Brad Davis or entering in a platoon with a series of players, such as Barnes, Boniek Garcia and Alex; he was also being groomed to play right-back in Philly and could earn time in a more central role as well.
Giving up such a high draft pick is never ideal, but in this case, it looks to be justified. These are good moves that will unquestionably improve the Dynamo's attack for next year and fill some holes in the team.
Here's an updated starting XI:
Of course, Ricardo Clark is still under contract talks and Rasheed Olabiyi is interchangeable with Zach Steinberger and/or another offseason target, but this is how it would possibly stand if they played tomorrow.