The MLS summer transfer/trade window opened on July 10th, officially allowing teams to bring in reinforcements from other leagues and trade for intra-league players. Some clubs had signed players in the weeks leading up to the window and just now were able to add them to the roster, as was the case for the Earthquakes and their new creative midfielder, Valeri Qazaishvili.
For the Houston Dynamo, they sit in third place in the Western Conference as we hit the Gold Cup break, four points behind first-place Sporting KC with a game in hand. The attack has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 MLS season, and its top-tier depth rivals any other in the league. They’ve also found success with Juan David Cabezas in defensive midfield this year, continuing to speak well of the front office’s offseason moves.
Incredibly though, a total of just two points of their 28 have come on the road. They are 8-0-2 (W-L-D) at home and 0-7-2 away from Houston. The three other teams in MLS with that drastic of a difference in home and away records are sitting in 10th, 10th, and 11th in the standings.
Their needs in this transfer window revolve around three things, mainly: finding a central creator, upgrading an occasionally leaky defense, and figuring out their approach to dealing with a loaded attack that may be a bit too crowded. Winning on the road should, theoretically, come with the first two.
It appears, and nothing is official at the time of this writing, that the first thing has been addressed. Argentine attacking midfielder Tomas Martinez has been rumored to be arriving soon, and there was even a picture making the rounds on Twitter recently that showed him eating with Matt Jordan in a Houston restaurant:
Sitting here in Salata Pearland a few feet away from Matt Jordan and our Tomas Martinez! Oh snap! pic.twitter.com/28ZKo7E9F8— Edgar I Martinez (@e23martinez) July 5, 2017
The move has yet to be confirmed, but all indications appear that Martinez, who plays for Portuguese club Braga, will be heading to Houston in the very near future. Martinez is 22-years old, having played for River Plate from 2012 to 2016 after being linked to Arsenal and FC Barcelona.
His signing would finally give the Dynamo the central creator they’ve been desiring for years. Wilmer Cabrera had tried to play Alex as a No. 10 this season in an attempt to generate more creation from midfield, but that didn’t work particularly well, and resulted in him getting benched. Martinez entering the fold should, if the coaching staff goes this way, allow Alex to move back to his best position, box-to-box midfielder, where he was their team MVP last season.
A midfield of Cabezas, Alex, and Martinez is a pretty solid one. It would mean Ricardo Clark moving out of the starting XI, but that seems to be a necessary move at this point, although a tough decision to make.
Martinez would, in all likelihood, fill the Dynamo’s third and final Designated Player spot. Houston do presumably have some Targeted Allocation Money and General Allocation Money stored up after their trade with D.C. United earlier this season, when the Dynamo sent DCU the top spot in the allocation order in exchange for $100,000 in GAM and $75,000 in TAM.
In that trade, an international roster spot was also sent to Houston, which is currently being used on RGVFC call-up Charlie Ward. They do have one slot remaining at the moment thanks to their release of Agus in June, but that will probably be the one used on Martinez.
Their roster has three open spots (they’ve used 27 of 30), two of which are senior roster places. A trade within MLS is possible, possibly for a defender to help a backline that has struggled at times.
The biggest decision will have to be on the status of the four star attackers: Mauro Manotas, Erick Torres, Romell Quioto, and Alberth Elis. They’ve faced a lot of injuries and international absences, so Cabrera hasn’t had to make too many tough decisions, but when it comes down to it, there are four guys and three available spots. All of these players are too good to sit on the bench.
Maybe nothing happens with these three this summer and the organization rides it out, hoping to capitalize on these four on the road to a playoff run. But these players cost money. It’s not practical to keep all four, and it’s not fair to the player who sits (likely one of the strikers).
That’s a decision that has to be made: Is it Cubo or Manotas long term for starting striker? If it’s Cubo, the Dynamo would probably have to find an international club willing to pay some serious cash for the up and coming Mexican international. If it’s Manotas, it’s possible an MLS team would be willing to offer up a big package for him. I’m not sure what exactly that package would entail, but it’s fun to think about.
For Houston to stick with the top teams in the Western Conference, they’ll need some good road results soon, and the addition of Martinez should help that. They still have work to do in trying to determine their future, though, and that backline could use some upgrades. It’ll be interesting what they come up with.