On December 8th with the Expansion Draft looming, the Dynamo completed one of their first offseason moves sending Andrew Driver and a 2016 fourth-round draft pick to DC United in exchange for backup goalkeeper Joe Willis and right winger Samuel Inkoom.
The move came just a day before teams were to turn in protected lists for the Expansion Draft and it was met largely with confusion by fans. After Tyler Deric's terrific half-season as the No. 1 and with Tally Hall on the way out, signing a goalkeeper didn't seem to be a priority with other holes left to fill. And Inkoom was very unproven, having only seen the field for DCU in two regular season matches. While Driver wasn't anticipated to be retained after a lackluster 2014, it seemed the Dynamo were not shaping up for a dramatic offseason.
As the trade window has progressed and the Dynamo completed multiple landmark signings, fans should look back at this early trade positively, and with good reason. It's easy for it to go unnoticed with the Dynamo acquiring Cubo Torres, Raúl Rodríguez, and Leonel Miranda. However, this trade stands as one of the best of the entire MLS offseason, at least for Houston. Let's take a closer look to understand just how the Dynamo came out on top.
Prior to his ACL injury last season, Tally Hall was apparently halfway out the door and on his way to Orlando City SC. That his injury sidelined him and opened a window of opportunity for Tyler Deric was happenstance. Deric's performance over the rest of the 2014 season (marked by four Save of the Week candidates) proved he was a capable replacement between the sticks. The switch would provide relief on Houston's pocketbooks, as well, with the starting goalkeeper salary dropping from roughly $213,000 to $97,600.
While Michael Lisch moved into the second-in-command, the Dynamo began to shift their focus to Willis. The DC fan favorite had played backup to Bill Hamid for multiple seasons, finding himself covering during International Duty, Champions League, and the occasional USL minutes, where he claimed end-of-year awards for his performances. Willis is impressive and a low cap hit at $49,000.
The Dynamo certainly took notice as the season wrapped up and moved to sign him before risking losing him to an expansion team. After squaring away the deal on December 8th, the Dynamo have built a strong keeper corps of Deric, Willis, and Lisch. Even more, Deric's spot might not be firmly held as Joe Willis is in camp providing competition for the starting position.
The other part of the deal, Samuel Inkoom, didn't pan out. The Ghanaian International wasn't a primary target for the Dynamo but was necessary to complete the trade. Taking on his $104,000 salary would likely have created a difficult offseason as the Dynamo began negotiating with scouting targets. Based on his talent and experience, Inkoom may very well be worth the cost but as an unproven quantity in MLS, Houston will leave another team to take that risk.
Andrew Driver, too, did not pan out in DC. Fellow SBNation blog Black and Red United reported this morning that Driver is no longer a trialist with the club. The incoming acquisition of Michael Farfan had apparently crowded the Scotsman's natural position and proved too challenging to claim a place on the roster.
With the dust beginning to settle on the offseason, this early-window trade has come down to a swap of a strong goalkeeper in Joe Willis for a fourth-round pick in next year's draft. In the previous couple seasons, had anyone wondered what Willis' value was, a late-round draft pick was likely not the answer. The move feels like something out of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey's playbook: clear the salary cap space, install low-cost/high-value players, and acquire more at minimal cost. These are the types of moves that allow for the Cubo's, Raúl's, Beasley's, and Miranda's. With those new signings stealing the headlines, the way the Dynamo manged to pull off the Willis acquisition must stand as perhaps the most underrated move of the entire league's offseason.