It took a while, but the Dynamo are officially eliminated from postseason contention after they lost at home to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday
There are serious organizational problems in Houston right now. They ruined one of the top prospects MLS has seen over the past three years — Cubo Torres can tell a sad, sad tale of his times in Houston — and their lack of actual good players under the age of 30 is one of the many contributing factors to the poor attendance they’ve experienced.
Owen Coyle was, admit it, a poor manager who drove this team backward. He didn’t play almost any young prospects at any point — much less develop any — and his coaching style never seemed to resonate with his players, who often looked like they didn’t know what they were doing during games.
Coyle and others helped create a culture of losing in Houston. They’ve become akin to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns or the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers in that they are stuck in a perennial rebuilding mode. There is no urgency to go out and find players who can truly make a difference in this league — Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger are good, but they are not good enough.
Missing the playoffs three straight years in a league where 12 out of 20 teams qualify is disastrous, and speaks to the organization’s ineffectualness at developing a winning system and acquiring players who can help advance that system.
Perhaps the biggest failure for the Dynamo has been their complete incompetence at putting together a successful academy and finding good homegrown players from an area that should be full of them. Rio Grande Valley FC will certainly help with that, but what is this team doing to help progress players from RGV? Not much.
It took ages for Mauro Manotas to earn meaningful playing time, and when he finally got starts, the change paid immediate dividends. He became the team’s leading scorer after starting just eight games, and now it is fair to wonder if there are others who are in the same boat as Manotas was. Jose Escalante? Christian Lucatero? Memo Rodriguez?
It can’t be denied that there’s been significant progress under Wade Barrett, despite the continuing difficulties. He has implemented a consistent lineup and employed actual tactics, with the players having some idea of what their role is as a result. They’ve become an organized, cohesive defensive team who have made a habit out of stealing points from playoff contenders. Just imagine how things would have been different if Barrett had started the season as manager.
#MLS Pts Since 8/1:— Mark Fishkin (@MarkFishkin) October 4, 2016
RBNY TFC CLB 19
FCD COL LA PHI POR HOU12
SKC CHi 9
Barrett should most definitely have the interim tag removed. If you look at the tweet above from New York Red Bulls reporter Mark Fishkin, you will see that the Dynamo have the same amount of points since August 1st as Dallas, Colorado, LA, Portland, and Philadelphia. That’s an elite group that includes the two remaining clubs who have a shot at the Supporters’ Shield.
It’s a very pressing conflict in Dynamo fan circles whether Barrett should be given the job. While my belief is that he is a very promising young coach and deserves to get a chance, I see the argument for why a more flashy hiring (along the lines of Tata Martino, who will manage Atlanta United next year) could help fill up BBVA Compass Stadium at a more consistent rate.
Whoever gets the job, it’s likely that there will be a complete and total offseason overhaul; there won’t be a whole lot of current players who will hold onto their roster spots next season. A Designated Player or two could be brought in and, presumably, some TAM will be used on someone who can make a difference in this team.
DaMarcus Beasley —one of the Dynamo’s three DPs — will be out of contract soon and told MLSsoccer.com that he doesn’t see a return to Houston.
“My gut feeling is, probably not,” Beasley said when asked if a return to Houston was on the table. “Just because I haven’t really had talks with them. If they wanted to renew my contract or give me another one, or whatever, then I’m sure I would have heard from them by now.”
Beasley is 34 and while he’s played well this season, the money used on him could certainly be used elsewhere. He could end up as one of many casualties this offseason as the franchise looks to bring in new blood. Players like Raul Rodriguez, Will Bruin, and maybe even Ricardo Clark may not be wearing orange in 2017. This is entirely speculation — I am not breaking any news here — but it is reasonable to theorize about aging players moving on in the offseason.
The question now becomes, who will replace these players? The main positions of need vary from a chance-creating center midfielder to a goal-scoring winger, but there really isn’t a place that the Dynamo can’t improve. Alex, Collen Warner, Manotas, Boniek Garcia, and Wenger are the only players who have proven that they deserve a spot on the team next year; and a select few of them are definite starters.
Look at what the Sounders have done with Nicolas Lodeiro. That should be the model that the Dynamo follow this offseason. Find a player from anywhere across the globe who can be signed to make a difference, at any position. That player is not Cristian Maidana, I’m sorry to inform you. That player instead should come from somewhere like Boca Juniors, or Juventus, or Cruz Azul, or maybe somewhere like West Ham or Hertha Berlin. Get the scouts going, and find a player who can step into this team on day one and be productive.
And this is all while advancing the academy. Adding more promising 19-year olds from the Houston suburbs to RGVFC. Giving Lucatero or Rodriguez a roster spot. This is how FC Dallas got to be the best team in MLS. They invested in the academy, searched all over South America, and came out with Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios. They found Ecuador-international Carlos Gruezo at a middling German club. They stuck with Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman in central defense.
Where is the Dynamo’s Kellyn Acosta? When are they going to find their own Coy Craft, or Timo Pitter, or Jesse Gonzalez? Once they really, truly invest in their academy, and when they give that 18-year old prospect some first-team playing time, they’re going to strike gold with Houston’s version of Alphonso Davies or Jay Chapman or Justen Glad.
A combination of this long-term thinking and the win-now mindset emphasized above will bring the Dynamo out of the gutter and into the good graces of Houston sports fans, who will then turn out with more urgency at BBVA.
And then they can start to think about playoff soccer. Until then, there’s a lot to do to change the course of this organization.