The Houston Dynamo added a much-needed piece to their wide midfield options Wednesday, announcing the capture of English winger Andrew Driver from Heart of Midlothian.
Driver, who MLSsoccer.com confirmed Tuesday will not be a Designated Player, comes to the club on a multi-year deal which starts as a loan and turns into a permanent move when his contract with Hearts is up at the end of the Scottish Premier League club's season. Financial terms were not made available, per club policy.
Houston entered the offseason looking for a player that can provide cover for the projected summer departures of Boniek García and Brad Davis on international duty while still providing the same level of play. Wednesday’s move has the club feeling they have addressed that need with a player that, once integrated, can step right in and provide the level and style of play head coach Dominic Kinnear and the Dynamo ask of their players.
“I think we’ve got a very powerful player that our head coach sees a lot in and who can bring that depth and ability to the club,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m sure Dom is going to have all the confidence in the world to play him whenever’s necessary and that will make him a big contributor to the club.”
That optimism stems from the belief that Driver looks like a prototypical Dynamo player.
Kinnear spoke of the winger’s ability to get forward and provide the final ball both in the run of play and on set pieces. Kinnear said that trait “caught our eye and is something we think we need more of.”
One skill that made Driver stand out, however, was his willingness to defend as energetically as he attacks.
“He doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities with tracking back. It’s something we ask of our players and something the team expects,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “From watching games and talking to some people that know Hearts, he has a good attitude and works both sides of the ball.”
While Driver fits the mold, he does not come without some concerns. According to reports, Driver has yet to recapture the same form he had before a 2010 knee injury knocked his career off track. That, coupled with a public battle with Hearts manager Paulo Sergio, led to sparse use at Hearts over the past two seasons.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to come and play for the Dynamo,” Driver said in a statement. “I have followed MLS over the years and Houston has stood out as one of the top teams. I know a lot of success has been because of the work of Dominic Kinnear, so I am delighted to have the chance to learn from him and improve as a player under him.”
Kinnear said that talks with Driver, scouting reports and a recent showing assuaged any concerns about Driver’s health or attitude.
“I saw him play against Celtic about a month ago,” Kinnear said. “He’s a good player, quick, and he can be very direct, and crosses in a good ball. And he’s a player we can work on set pieces. He feels he’s in great shape and he’s looking forward to the challenge of coming here to Houston.”
Driver’s arrival in Houston has yet to be finalized, pending his P-1 visa and international transfer certificate being secured.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.