The Houston Dynamo have missed the playoffs the last three seasons in a row and the changes the organization made this offseason led many fans to believe that things have turned around. Wilmer Cabrera, a coach with MLS experience who had a good year with the USL Rio Grande Valley Toros, was named our new head coach and he brought an attack minded ethos with players that fit that style.
Forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto were integral additions to play alongside Erick “Cubo” Torres or Mauro Manotas. The defense saw an overhaul with A. J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo coming in from the LA Galaxy and Panamanian international Adolfo Machado joined the club. The Dynamo organization also brought in designated player Tomás Martínez, a number 10, during the summer transfer window which has been a missing piece for some time.
Despite road woes, a typical problem among MLS clubs, the team has shown real promise in 2017 and has been a stark contrast to last year’s bottom of the Western Conference finish. However, some Dynamo fans have given their optimism pause after failing to win a game in their previous four outings which brings up an important question: is it time to start panicing?
Former Dynamo Theory writer Richard Willis used to pose this question in the form of the “panic button” and right now many fans have their fingers over it and for good reason. The Dynamo are no longer in a playoff position. A self described, “very honest sports fan” summed up the reactions of many supporters and the feelings they have about where the club will finish this season:
We've gone from "we can win the west" to "we can still make the playoffs." Cheers Dynamo.— Eli (@EliDynamo_00) September 17, 2017
Yes, not too many weeks ago the Dynamo were at the top of the Western Conference table and sentiments among supporters is that they were contenders for the number 1 seed in the West, but after last Saturday’s 0-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes the club fell from 5th place to 7th which quickly derailed those dreams.
So let’s come back to reality and take a look at the Dynamo going forward because although they currently occupy a position outside of the playoff dividing line, the Western Conference is an incredibly close race which should provide fans with some hope. Houston is tied on points with Real Salt Lake who are in the 6th and final playoff spot, but they hold the tie breaker as they have one more win than us. However, we have a few games in hand which will be pivotal in the coming weeks, but it will hardly be easy.
With six games left in the MLS regular season, the Dynamo only face two teams under the playoff line: the LA Galaxy and Minnesota United FC. They have games against Eastern Conference power houses New York City FC and the Chicago Fire which will be no walk in the park, but the two most important fixtures will be the home and away games against Sporting Kansas City. Those games will be the “six point swing” commentators often mention in regards to matches against conference opponents. Those will be huge opportunities to steal points from an opponent above the playoff line and move up as well.
So is it time to push the panic button? There’s certainly a strong case for it and those that have watched the club week in and week out know there are some problems that have not been addressed. Lineup inconsistencies, the scoring slump, poor road performances, and conservative tactics that go against the ultra-attacking mentality that Cabrera initially instilled are key contributors to our current situation.
The good news is that most of the remaining Dynamo games will be at home where they’ve been very good this season only losing once in 13 games. The last stretch of the season will be a huge test, but they may be able to ride some of their momentum – should they find it, into the playoffs. So should we push the panic button? If you haven’t, you may want to now because depending on how other clubs do each week, each game is essentially a must win to gain ground on those ahead of us and to keep the clubs behind us vying for a spot in the postseason at bay.
Personally, I believe the team will make it although I’ve been accused of being an optimist in the past. However, should we miss out for a fourth year in a row, I wouldn’t be surprised either. What do you think? Is it time to panic? Will the team finally see the playoffs again or are they doomed to catch the postseason from the couch?