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Tough offseason decisions still to come for the Houston Dynamo

The Dynamo have done well to start the 2017-2018 offseason, but now they face tougher decisions.

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason has treated the Houston Dynamo well thus far. They re-upped Alberth Elis and Juan David Cabezas on full transfers, crucial successes that reaffirm their 2017 core, and they re-signed Eric Alexander just before free agency hit full gear. Boniek Garcia is back as a versatile backup and locker room good guy. Chris Seitz, the former FC Dallas goalkeeper, was signed to compete for the starting job.

Their most important contributors for next year are much closer to being solidified for next season.

However, they have plenty of important choices still to make from a purely roster-building standpoint, and that goes hand in hand with the wide-ranging tactical decisions on Wilmer Cabrera’s plate. Here’s a more specific look at the dilemmas they face this offseason, some more important than others:

1. A concrete decision at striker

This means settling on Mauro Manotas or Erick Torres as the 2018 starter up top and then selling the odd one out. Jump in the comments if you feel differently, but it seems there is a consensus among fans and observers that Manotas is the better long-term option. For good reason.

The Colombian has shown to be a more efficient and productive finisher, a better athletic presence, and a superior distributor. He also is younger and considerably less expensive.

The question, then, is what kind of market exists for Cubo, and what kind of return the Dynamo can pull. Given his history with the Mexican national team and Santos Laguna, one would think a Liga MX team would be willing to pay up for him, but it’s unclear how realistic that is. I’d doubt an MLS team would want him, with his salary and international status.

It’s important that the Dynamo get this right. They can’t stick with the current logjam situation.

2. Cheaper attacking depth

Vicente Sanchez may or may not return and they will have to drop one of those strikers, necessitating more contributors at various attacking positions. Memo Rodriguez hit at least 1,000 minutes and Arturo Alvarez, a quality backup No. 10, will help there, but players who provide tactical flexibility and can step in for Elis and Manotas should be looked at.

Here are some in-league options via various MLS mechanisms:

  • Sean Okoli: He won the USL’s Golden Boot in 2016 with FC Cincinnati and served as David Villa’s backup in New York this year. Okoli, available in the re-entry draft, is a hold-up No. 9 who could be a good late-game change of pace from Manotas.
  • Alan Gordon: A veteran super-sub, useful for any team. He is a free-agent.
  • Lamar Neagle: He could end up going back to Seattle, but he remains a free-agent at the time of this posting. Neagle can play all over the attack and step seamlessly into the starting XI if need be.
  • Jose Villareal: Villareal, a No. 10, has spent way too long in LA Galaxy exile. Some team should take a shot at him in the re-entry draft because he still has loads of unrecognized.
  • Chad Barrett: They should really be promoting academy kids and drafting college players into these spots, but Barrett is a veteran free-agent who can do a job.

3. Defensive depth, particularly at full back

While right back AJ DeLaGarza had a great season last year, his torn ACL may put him out for the first couple months next season, and he has yet to officially return to the club. In addition, DaMarcus Beasley is still a free-agent, and their only three capable center backs are 32, 32, and 29.

Dylan Remick can start at left back if Beasley doesn’t return, but they might need a full-time starter at right back, and at least multiple backups all over the backline.

Looking at the re-entry list and eligible free-agents, there are few possible pieces. Kofi Sarkdodie, who obviously has been in Houston before, can play either full back spot, and Ethan White is a versatile veteran, but they should be getting more creative in this spot. Draft well, make cheap trades (meaningless 4th-round picks are being sent around for backups a lot at the moment), and scout.

It’s that simple. Easier said than done.