Several members of the Houston Dynamo ranks once again find themselves thrust onto the international stage with a chance to represent their respective countries for various friendly tune-up matches and, in the case of Giles Barnes, 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. In addition to Barnes, who will travel with Jamaica for a two-leg WCQ series to face Nicaragua, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido will be with the Honduran National Team, and Erick Torres will be with the Mexican U-22 side for 3 friendly matches.
Besides personal prestige of playing for country, the players traveling with their national teams won't miss out on the Dynamo's next match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday September 12th as the Dynamo are lucky to not be one of the 10 teams playing this game week. Here are 3 quick reasons why this break, or time with the national team for some players, is both a good thing and potentially a bad thing for the Men in Orange.
1) Cubo can get more matches under his belt to regain match fitness and an eye for goal. Owen Coyle said in the post-game press conference after the Dynamo defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps at home that he thinks that more games for the young striker could help him regain his sharpness in front of goal. The Dynamo's win over Vancouver was also Cubo's first start for the club which saw few chances fall to the Mexican International player. If Cubo is given some chances with the U-22 Mexican side he could benefit tremendously from the confidence boost and from an increase in match fitness.
2) The Dynamo's recent three game road trip was one of the low points of the season in my book, but a huge reason that things didn't go quite as planned in enemy territory had to do with injuries to a few key players. Ricardo Clark missed all of the road games and the preceding 2-1 win over San Jose after he injured his hamstring scoring an equalizing goal in our draw with Sporting Kansas City. DaMarcus Beasley injured his calf in the first road trip matchup against the New England Revolution while Raúl Rodríguez battled through a right adductor strain that forced him to sit out against New England and the Colorado Rapids.
Some members of the Dynamo easily could benefit from a little R&R and having influential players like these three back at full health could help lift the side up from being a "so-so" squad to one with a lot more life.
3) Since Giles Barnes declared that he wanted to play for the Jamaican National Team he seems to have gotten better and better as a player. He had himself a great Gold Cup competition and prior to the competition was considered among one of the most in-form players in MLS at the time. Of course, Barnes came back from the Gold Cup slightly tired and beaten up (as competitions tend to wear on you especially when you make it to the finals...thanks for scoring the game winner against the US by the way Giles...), but there is every reason to believe that his time with the Jamaican National Team could boost his spirit and abilities in the same way it could for Cubo.
1) Of course there are several downsides to playing with national teams (at least from a club perspective) and the biggest issue of them all is injuries. The Dynamo have been hit with a lot of them this season and injuries to Oscar Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor in the Gold Cup remind us of the real dangers of that lurk in some of these competitions. While Boniek recently rejoined the action for the Dynamo, Taylor is likely to miss the rest of the season with a right quad tear he suffered playing with Jamaica. Losing Cubo's potential, Boniek's creativity, Garrido's grit, or Barnes's goal scoring could really make it difficult for any chance for the Dynamo to make the playoffs. Of course, some players impact the squad more than others, but losing depth at any position isn't a good thing for a club.
2) The other concern, which is somewhat related to injuries, is the possibility of too much playing time as tired legs or a lack of focus could affect these players returning from their national teams. As mentioned above, Barnes's form post-Gold Cup did not resemble his pre-Gold Cup form. For Giles, assuming he plays in both of the meaningful WCQ games, the Dynamo's match against RSL would be his 3rd game in just over a week. That's a lot of miles and minutes to log. For the Dynamo to remain in the hunt for the final playoff spot, every game matters and for players to miss time or play while fatigued physically or mentally could be the difference between three points, one point, or no points.
3) Time away or time off could hurt the team's ability to gather momentum from their win over 2nd place overall Vancouver. Sure, rest (as pointed out above) will do the team a lot of good, but some of the things that worked against the Whitecaps could be lost in all that rest as the team regroups for the stretch ahead. Sure, I'm nit-picking and this team is made up of professionals, but this Dynamo team has only put together back-to-back wins once this year. The change of pace could hurt their ability to draw on the win and grind out a winning streak.
What do you think?
Of course, I think that the positives of this break definitely outweigh the negatives. Getting Clark, Beasley, and Rodríguez as close to 100% is the most important thing this club needs at the moment and getting Cubo ready to contribute is also high on that list.
What do you think of the short break? Is it largely better for the club? Worse? Does it even matter? Regardless, at least the Dynamo aren't in the same position as the Columbus Crew who have NINE players out on national team duty with a match this week.