HOUSTON – Entering the final 10 days of camp, no position represents the competitive theme of the Houston Dynamo preseason more than the battle at forward. No starting spots have been decided, but it’s safe to assume the question is: “Who will partner Brian Ching up top?”
The conventional wisdom is to play a speedster with Ching. Houston are taking a different approach choosing to bring in a diverse group and use the preseason to determine the partnerships that work the best.
“It’s been great in camp,” said returning forward Cam Weaver. “Everyone brings a little something different but all these guys are hard workers. I pride myself on working hard and it’s a joy playing with guys who all share that mentality.”
That work ethic has the race for playing time wide open.
The player making the most noise is likely the youngest. Scoring four goals in the past two scrimmages has put Will Bruin (pictured at top) squarely in the mix for playing time. The goals could serve as a launching point for the 6-foot-2 rookie who has impressed throughout camp, displaying deceptive pace and a good motor.
Another good all-around player in the mix is newcomer Jason Garey. Coming to Houston in a trade from Columbus, he’s shown he can work well off the ball and is willing to pick up the slack in midfield. The former Hermann Award winner provides the type of veteran savvy that head coach Dominic Kinnear covets.
“Jason’s a smart soccer player and he does things a forward should do, like making runs for him and the other forward,” Kinnear said.
[inline_node:289677]Another veteran in the mix is Weaver (at right), who has shown in two years with the club that he can score goals when healthy. A week from the start of the regular season, his fitness is good and the big man is finding chances in the box.
“Weaver is the type of forward, like Brian, that can attack balls served from out wide,” Kinnear said.
With four big forwards in camp, Dominic Oduro is the wild card in the mix. The club’s second-leading scorer in 2010, the Ghanaian rejoined the squad last week and brought with him a unique skill: elite speed. Oduro arrived in camp fit and in form, notching an assist in Monday’s scrimmage.
The spirited training environment and successful preseason has made handicapping the race extremely difficult, but it’s clear that Kinnear & Co. have a number of options. One thing is certain, the players are happy to be doing well and hoping to take their success into the regular season.
“Everyone’s been scoring that’s been up there,” said Garey. “We’ve got a great competition going and depending on the opponent it’s up to the coaches to decide who’s going to get the playing time.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.