Houston Dynamo's inaugural season will not get underway for another few weeks but the club is already in midseason form.
A successful run of preseason friendlies in California ended Wednesday with an intense 2-1 victory over Chivas USA. The win was the club's third over an MLS opponent in the past week but more importantly helped the club prepare for the 2006 campaign.
"So far, so good but there are still some things to work on," Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said. "Nothing's perfect."
Against Chivas, the Dynamo looked sharp in their 70 minutes of action. The club surrendered little to Chivas and were scored on only when Juan Pablo Garcia's booming 40-yard free kick fortuitously bounced inside the back of the net. But a minute later, Alejandro Moreno slid a shot into the back of the Chivas net for the game winner.
Among the players who have looked especially sharp is Brian Ching, who spent a bulk of his time this year with the U.S. national team. Ching scored two goals in the last four games against MLS competition. He scored on a powerful header following a well-placed corner kick from Ronald Cerritos in Houston's 2-1 win over Chivas on March 2. Wednesday, he opened the scoring after breaking loose inside Chivas' box and beating goalkeeper Preston Burpo from close range.
Houston beat New York 1-0 on Monday and dropped a 2-1 result to the Galaxy on March 1. Also, Houston beat UCLA 3-0 on Monday.
Even though there is still work to be done prior to the start of the season, having played so many games in such a short span has helped the club progress, Kinnear said.
"You want to play games so the game part comes into (preseason preparations)," he said. "The mental aspect of it, we're not 100 percent there but I think the effort has been great. Some of the plays have been very good and defensively we've been very smart."
Aside from staying healthy, one of the club's objectives over the next few weeks is to recapture the unity that existed a year ago. The team lost defender Danny Califf to Europe but the bulk of the club that captured the Supporters' Shield returns, which should make the task easier.
"You want to see how cohesive we are as well. The cohesion is there. The appreciation of each other is there. That's one thing that's a little bit simple because we have a lot of guys coming back," Kinnear said.
When the season starts on April 2 against Colorado, Kinnear wants the club to be in a competitive frame of mind. Whereas the task before the start of last year was to build a team, this year's job is to maintain the high level of play the club performed at a year ago.
"The challenge this year for us is to be competitive every game," Kinnear said. "That's a challenge I think we can overcome pretty easily because we all have the same mindset. They put aside their individual goals and accolades."
It is not easy to gauge how far along the club has come and how much work lies ahead because there are still numerous factors that can come into play, Kinnear said. And even though the club has been winning its share of friendlies, only the work will carry over into the regular season.
"These games are good but when you start the season, no one has a win and no one has a loss," Kinnear said. "It's all brand new."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.