2013 record: 14-11-9 (51 points); 41 GF / 41 GA (0 GD)
For the first time in three years, the Houston Dynamo didn't reach MLS Cup. Instead, they saw a roller-coaster season end a step before in a 2-1 loss to eventual champions Sporting Kansas City.
Seeing Houston battle SKC for a spot in the title game was not a surprise. The path to get there, however, was. The Dynamo endured an up-and-down campaign that saw the club hit some franchise lows, including landmark losses at home to the New York Red Bulls and on the road at the Montreal Impact.
A major culprit for those valleys was inconsistent play that resulted from injuries and international duty, mainly with Jermaine Taylor, Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis in and out of the lineup, but also some major dips in form at times. Houston struggled on occasion at all levels from back to front and there were moments during which the playoffs were a major question mark.
Still, they found a way to hit their stride at the right time. A good run of form carried the team through to another run to the Eastern Conference Championship but ultimately exited a frigid Sporting Park the same way it did at StubHub Center the two years before – wondering what could have been and ready to plan for another run.
Best Moment of the Year
Omar Cummings was a non-factor in the regular season for the Dynamo because of injury, so when he came up with the biggest goal of 2013 by tapping in a rebound in extra time of the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal in New York, emotions ran high. Cummings drew the series level with his first goal of the season in front of the home crowd just days before, but his goal at Red Bull Arena trickled over the line and put Houston through to their third consecutive Eastern Conference Championship.
Worst Moment of the Year
Houston suffered several lowlights this season, including a franchise worst 5-0 loss at the Impact, but a 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls at home was a new low. The game that got well out of hand for the Dynamo that it became a microcosm for the ills of their season, as injuries and an inconsistency in attack and defense led to the team enduring its worst home loss in recent memory.
Few in MLS strike a ball as well as Adam Moffat. While he finished his season in the Pacific Northwest after a trade to the Seattle Sounders for Servando Carrasco, he got in one last Moffat Rocket with his left-footed golazo during a two-goal performance in a 2-1 win at New England on July 13. On a redirected set piece, Moffat took his chance on a skied ball and hit it flush on the volley from the edge of the box for one of his best efforts in an orange uniform.
It was a year where many of Houston’s stars suffered from inconsistency. Whether it was from injury, international call-ups or dips in form, the main cogs in the wheel struggled to put complete seasons together. All except Tally Hall. The Dynamo goalkeeper played every minute for the club and was a rock in the back. Hall kept Houston in several matches with highlight-reel saves while also showing the type of leadership progression that you want in a still-maturing ‘keeper.
Entering the season, Giles Barnes was expected to fight for minutes in midfield. A few injuries to Cummings and Cam Weaver opened up a spot to move Barnes into a forward role and the Englishman delivered. He led Houston with nine goals this season while forming an evolving partnership with Will Bruin that showed extreme promise at times. With injuries ravaging Houston’s front line, Barnes was a life saver and an acquisition that paid off well for head coach Dominic Kinnear.
“Our guys are not satisfied until we win. We hold ourselves to a high standard, as Dom holds us to a high standard. We all do, that's obviously been a reason for our success. We set a goal and we don't like to come up short." – midfielder Brad Davis on the season.
1. Help on the wing: Next season’s schedule will not be nearly as congested as this year with no CONCACAF Champions League on tap, but the World Cup will likely rob Houston of starting wingers Davis and Garcia. With the club declining its option on Andrew Driver, the Dynamo could need not one but two experienced wingers to navigate 2014.
2. Forward reinforcements: 2013 was frustrating for Houston on the front line. The pairing of Bruin and Barnes produced 19 goals, including the playoffs, but that rarely seemed like enough. With Cummings and Jason Johnson providing some speed up top, Houston will look to fill the role of another experienced big man. Weaver’s option was declined, so expect the the team to look for help to fill the stat sheet.
3. Infusion of youth in central defense: Center back hasn't been a question for Houston in some years. But with Bobby Boswell now with D.C. United and the group growing in age, the club will look to find the next player in that line to go with strong young outside backs Kofi Sarkodie and Corey Ashe. Anthony Arena will get a shot to show what he can do, but help could come also come in the way of Homegrown defender and Duke University standout Sebastien Ibeagha or through the draft. In any case, the next name at center back could come soon.