CARSON, Calif. – The 2012 Houston Dynamo are hardly a “new-look” bunch. They’ve returned the vast majority of the squad that made it all the way to MLS Cup 2011, and are one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference this season.
But there are a couple openings in the starting lineup thanks to the departures of Brian Ching and Danny Cruz. And judging from Wednesday morning’s 2-0 friendly victory over the Montreal Impact, veterans Cam Weaver and Colin Clark are intent upon making those spots their own.
Clark got the first goal and Weaver, in his first action after four months of rehabbing a hip injury, got the second, signaling their intent to earn starter’s minutes.
“I want to be playing every game no matter what season it is, no matter who’s playing on the team,” Weaver (above left) told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s something as a player you’re always striving for, so regardless of Brian being here or who’s coming, I’m going to fight for that spot.”
Weaver’s fight included challenging every 50/50 ball in his 10 minutes on the pitch, as well as a neatly taken, right-footed goal from the top of the box that he bent around Evan Bush at the near post just moments after coming on.
“It’s a one-time finish, and it’d be nice if they all just rolled to you like that,” Weaver said. “But, you know, being that it was just about the first touch of the game, that was a nice confidence-boost after being out so long then coming on and helping the team.”
Clark, who played at left midfield, had opened the scoring in the 67th minute by sneaking onto a cross at the back post after some nice build-up play from forwards Will Bruin and Philip Aseweh, a Supplemental Draft pick from Liberty University who impressed.
“He’s dangerous going forward,” Clark said of Bruin, who had a hand in both goals and was probably Man of the Match. “Him and Phil combined pretty well, and you’re [at the back post] for a rebound, or a shot that’s going wide, and just get in the box and usually good things will happen.”
Clark got to play his more natural left midfield slot on the day, but knows with Brad Davis due to return from a quadriceps tear soon, his minutes there will be limited. So he’s focused on the spot across the pitch vacated by Cruz.
“It’s what [head coach Dominic Kinnear] brought me in here for, and he made that pretty clear,” Clark explained. “We have a pretty fantastic left sided player in Brad, so right’s where I’m gonna have my chances to play, and I’m happy with that. And it allows me to cut in and strike the ball with my left.”
Rookies Brian Ownby, Eder Arreola and Colin Rolfe all started the game for Houston and each had moments of quality.
Ownby, who played forward in college, spent his day at right midfield and used his speed and one-on-one ability to give Montreal left back Josh Gardner fits. Arreola served in a handful of quality, driven set-pieces and corners, though he had less of a say on proceedings in the run of play than Ownby did.
Rolfe, a big, rugged forward in the Weaver mold, had several flick-ons and a beautiful outside-of-the-boot through ball that sprung Ownby behind the defense near the end of the half, but struggled getting his shots on frame.
Elsewhere, Je-Vaughn Watson took Luiz Camargo’s spot in the central midfield while the Brazilian was relegated to fitness work. Kinnear said he expects Camargo to feature later in the trip.