HOUSTON – Heading into the final two weeks of preseason, the Houston Dynamo seem set at every midfield position except on the right. With Danny Cruz and Corey Ashe joining former Home Grown signing Francisco Navas Cobo, the competition for the starting right-wing spot is wide open.
One thing is for sure, with head coach Dominic Kinnear’s lineup experiments, no one – not even the players – are clear who has the edge.
“I know as much as you do about who will start,” said Cruz, whose 14 starts in 2010 are the most of any returning player at the position.
While Navas Cobo is still a work in progress and Colin Clark still isn’t back from a 2010 ACL injury, the main competition for the starting spot is between Cruz and Ashe. Both players bring speed and the ability to create chances for their teammates, vital attributes for a team that relies heavily on wide play.
“Having the guys we have at right midfield now, their speed is valuable,” said Kinnear. “We have guys who can run at players with the ball and create problems for other teams.”
One player that is not afraid to run at defenders is Cruz. The third-year Generation adidas player is looking to keep progressing after a quality sophomore campaign. To push his game to the next level, he is learning when to go forward and when to take his foot off the gas.
[inline_node:330076]“I enjoy taking people on, I see it as a challenge,” said Cruz. “On the other hand, I’m also trying to learn when to slow it down and try combining with my teammates.”
While sharing Cruz’s willingness to attack defenders, the left-footed Ashe adds a different dimension at the right flank. Ashe possesses impressive speed and has shown the ability to get behind defenses and whip balls into the box from the left side of midfield as both a reserve and part-time starter. Now, he’s looking to show the same skill from the opposite wing.
“I’m getting better with my right foot and have the ability to go both right and left and cut inside, shoot and cross,” said Ashe. “On the left or right, my job is to run at guys, create space and whip in crosses for the big guys inside.”
When you factor in the eventual return of the injured Clark and the continued progression of Navas Cobo, the battle for the starting right midfield spot is as deep as any on the team. With two weeks to go before the start of the regular season, the Dynamo coaching staff has a tough choice to make.
“It’s a great thing for a club to have this many great players at a position, and so far it’s been a hell of a battle with so many guys playing well,” said Cruz. “I tell you one thing– I’d hate to be the person making the decision.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.