After a promising start – including scoring 11 goals in their first three matches – the Dynamo struggled under Owen Coyle, failing time and again to close out games or pick up any results on the road. Coyle was replaced by former Dynamo Wade Barrett, who almost instantly solidified the defense, but didn’t do enough to keep Houston out of the bottom spot in the West.
Houston has been extremely busy rebuilding the club, starting with bringing in former Chivas USA and RGVFC coach Wilmer Cabrera. The roster has a few familiar faces, but a ton of new ones:
- DEF: DaMarcus Beasley*, Rodriguez, Horst, Mansally, Ibeagha, K. Brown, S. Williams
- MID: Maidana, C. Warner, Lovejoy, Steinberger, Arboleda
- FWD: Bruin
- DEF: Dylan Remick (SEA), Adolfo Machado (Saprissa), AJ DeLaGarza (LA), Leonardo (LA)
- MID: Juan David Cabezas (Deportivo Cali)
- FWD: Alberth Elis (Monterrey), Romell Quioto (free), Vicente Sanchez (free)
* – Beasley is still in negotiations with Houston for a contract extension
Wilmer Cabrera seems to be leaning towards a 4-3-3, especially since the Dynamo don’t appear to be signing a true Number 10. Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle predicts that the three in midfield will include one defensive midfielder (likely Cabezas), and then the other two will be “very narrow, very attack-minded wings.”
Tyler Deric has traditionally held the starting goalkeeper spot on the roster, but his injuries and red cards gave Joe Willis plenty of opportunity to shine in the 2016 season. I think the job’s still Deric’s to lose, but there isn’t much separating the two keepers in terms of skill.
The Dynamo back line is going to look completely different this season. Machado and Leonardo will pair up in the middle, and DeLaGarza will definitely hold down one of the outside back positions. The big question mark is whether or not Beasley will be back in orange for 2017. If not, then the position will likely fall to Remick. Jalil Anibaba, Agus, and Kevin Garcia are the current defensive backups.
The midfield will be anchored by Cabezas, a Columbian ball-winner that the Dynamo acquired on loan from Deportivo Cali. Last season’s surprisingly effective contributor, Alex Lima, will almost definitely be in the starting XI, which means that the remaining spot goes to one of the two Dynamo veterans, Ricardo Clark or Boniek Garcia. I expect Boniek to start, as he was one of the main set-piece takers in 2016. Jose Escalante, Joe Holland, and Andrew Wenger round out the midfield.
The expected front three for Houston will be Elis, Mauro Manotas, and Quioto. Erick Torres and Sanchez are available off the bench, but I don’t expect to see them at the start of the season in anything more than a substitute role.
Projected Houston Lineup
2017 Expectations / Conclusion
Two words come to mind: cautiously optimistic. The Dynamo have put together some pretty strong pieces to rebuild the team over the off-season. However it remains to be seen whether or not they’re able to gel together. However, if they do, this team has a shot at being in the hunt for the MLS Cup playoffs.