Although it’s always hard to put stock in preseason performances, the Houston Dynamo have to be excited about their chances to return to MLS prominence. One of the best teams for the better part of a decade, the team fell on some lean times in recent years. Now with Tab Ramos in his second full season and first real offseason, the team appears to have made some big strides. Let’s take a look.
The loss of fan favorites and those who have been mainstays over time is always difficult, however the player personnel acquisitions in this offseason may have been the best in Matt Jordan’s tenure as the VP of Player Development and general manager of the club. There were many outcries, including mine, with the departures of key players like Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas but it was more about the timing and not the move itself. It is likely that fans are more excited with the potential play of Maxi Uruti, Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez, Ariel Lassiter and Fafa Picault.
The backline has leaked like a sieve most of the last few seasons but the addition of Tim Parker brings instant credibility to the defensive third. That acquisition plus continuity (Maynor Figueroa, Adam Lundvkist, Zarek Valentin), along with the drafting of Ethan Bartlow is a big step in fixing the last line in front of Marko Maric. The Derrick Jones, Joe Corona, and Tyler Pasher additions will also pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Everywhere you look this team has head coach Tab Ramos’ imprint. There will be no one to be blame but him if this team fails to deliver. No longer will he be selecting the starting XI from former head coach Wilmer Cabrera’s players, instead the roster has been rebuilt and this is Tab’s team.
“I think the team is getting better and better in terms of guys getting to know each other and fighting for each other,” Ramos said recently. “Being in the right spots at the right time.....having so many guys adapt to the way we play is not easy.”
Tab wants a team that plays all three facets of the game and now he has them. We saw glimpses in preseason of what this group is capable of doing. They can play defense. They can control the midfield. They can score. Now, to put it all together consistently.
The best part of this offseason is that Tab isn’t satisfied with just a good showing in 2021. He wants more and that is trickling down into the player’s mind. Good isn’t good enough. Tab knows you are only as good as your last outing.
“Unfortunately, today, we didn’t do that for 90 minutes,” Ramos said following the preseason finale, a loss to FC Dallas. “I thought we did it for a good 45, but we need to get better at that. I think the way the team is built right now, we’ll surprise some teams on the road. That’ll be good, but we definitely have to get better - no questions about it.”
Back in the day, it was called the Dynamo Way and it produced two MLS titles in four tries inside of ten season. Gone though are Dominic Kinnear, Brian Ching, Brad Davis, Dwayne De Rosario and a host of others that acted as one on and off the pitch.
This is a whole new group and there is a new Dynamo way building but the standard will remain the same - winning. If you aren’t playing winning soccer, you aren’t one. Tab’s assembled group has that persona.
“I think it has been great, in the locker room or on the field. It has been great, everyone has been accepting and welcoming. On top of that, the football, everyday we get to learn more about each other,” said Fafa Picault after playing in his first preseason with Houston. “It’s only a few weeks that we have been together. So, we have to look at the bigger picture. It is a long season, 34 games. So, it is going to take a few games and a few games to get everyone on the same page. We are definitely heading toward the right direction. We have a lot of good pieces to do so. So, I think it is going to be a positive season. We are not going to look at today as a big downer, I think everything will come out positively. I am very optimist about what we are going to do.”