HOUSTON – The term “rebuilding year” was thrown around a lot in Houston before the 2011 season started. Nine months later, the Dynamo were within a goal of winning the third MLS Cup in franchise history.
Houston’s 2011 season was punctuated by a great finishing run to reach the league’s title game, but the club did endure its share of trials and tribulations along the way.
For the man at the helm of the ship, Dominic Kinnear, it was a year filled with tough decisions and pride in seeing his team come through down the stretch. He talked about it all, and what’s ahead, in a recent conversation with MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com: What was it like dealing with the peaks and valleys of this season?
Kinnear: Almost every team, every season goes through those ups and downs. As a coach, you don’t get too down when you have a bad run of results and don’t get too high when you have a good run of results. It’s important to maintain what you’re doing when you think you’re right and have confidence in your players to turn it around. In those days when we weren’t getting results, it was frustrating, but we didn’t let it get the best of us. It’s important to maintain balance and stick with what you’re doing.
MLSsoccer.com: You tinkered with the lineup quite a bit this season. What finally clicked late in the season?
Kinnear: Every time we put a team out there, we do it because we’re trying to win the game. During the season, we were making lineup changes and trying to get the combination that, on that day, would win the game. In the middle of the season, we made some good acquisitions and it allowed us to be a complete, balanced team and that led to us being able to make an incredible run to end the year.
MLSsoccer.com: With everything that happened this year, where does this season, and the playoff run, rank for you?
Kinnear: It was pretty impressive because there were a lot of games with a lot of pressure on us. I don’t know what game started it, but the win at FC Dallas [on Sept. 24] really got us going. And then we had games in Portland that we won and then the four playoff games — even though we ended up on the short end of the final, it was an enjoyable run because we played some great soccer. A lot of teams keyed on our strengths and we still provided goals from those areas. As a team, our effort to protect goals and leads, for me, I was really proud to watch.
MLSsoccer.com: Some called this a rebuilding year because you committed to the youth movement. How did your young group do this year?
Kinnear: It’s tough to look far ahead because rosters change so much and there’s uncertainty in professional sports. What I can say is that a lot of our young guys got some good experience this year. If you look at Will Bruin, who got a lot of games this year, and guys like Alex Dixon played some good games. Tally Hall’s a good young goalkeeper who gained a lot of experience this year and it was good for a guy like Corey Ashe, who played left back. A lot of guys played a lot of minutes at a lot of positions and that gives them experience and knowledge heading into next year and beyond.
MLSsoccer.com: In this very short offseason, what are some of the areas you’re concentrating on to continue to build the team?
Kinnear: We’re looking to improve in all areas of the field. I always think you can improve yourself in every area and, if there’s an opportunity for us to improve at any position and we can add good players and good depth, it makes us better in a long season ahead. That’s what we’re trying to do and we’ll be looking to improve in every way we can.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.