After three years of coming within inches of the brass ring only to fall short, many teams, especially those with a number of incumbents, would fall prey to a knee-jerk reaction make drastic changes. The Houston Dynamo, however, plan to take the opposite approach.
Instead of blowing things up, they're showing patience and banking that their core group has its best years in front of them.
“I don’t think the window’s closing on this team,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “I think we have a long list of players that are very talented and in the prime of their careers. We’ve got a very, very strong nucleus of the team that will be back.
“When we had our first team healthy, we were a very winning side. When this team is together, it can be a winning team in a very strong way.”
Health was major factor in Houston’s eventual downfall. They battled injuries, along with international absences, all season. But missing a trio of stars in the Eastern Conference Championship of the MLS Cup Playoffs, Ricardo Clark, Will Bruin and Jermaine Taylor, proved too much in an eventual 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
It was the third straight year the Dynamo flirted with a championship only to fall short; their previous two seasons ended in MLS Cup championship game losses. Knowing how talented their first choice lineup can be, Houston is working to maintain their core.
Who will return in 2014?
Many of the club's best players are under guaranteed contracts for 2014 or club options that are sure to be picked up. The nucleus of Tally Hall, Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia, Corey Ashe, Giles Barnes, Kofi Sarkodie, Bruin and Clark are certain to stay in Houston due to some diligent work by the front office this time last year.
“The nucleus of this team, their contracts are set and in good standing,” Canetti said. “It’s going to be the other pieces where we’re going to have to be smart and add strength.”
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Two of Houston’s younger players, Servando Carrasco and Alex Lopez, could provide that help. The midfielders will be counted on to add to an already strong midfield core and are likely to get bigger roles in 2014.
Two players whose futures are less certain are the out-of-contract pair of Bobby Boswell and Calen Carr. They have been part of many of the Dynamo’s good times the last several years. In Boswell’s case he has been a mainstay on the backline, logging more minutes than any Houston defender the past three seasons. Carr has had some big moments in a Dynamo shirt, as well, scoring the first goal of the 2012 MLS Cup being the biggest.
Per policy, the club declined to comment on the status of those players, but a decision will have to be made within the next two weeks before the Re-Entry Draft. If the club declines to make qualifying offers, five percent over current salary per MLS rules, they could still negotiate with the pair until that draft takes place.
“It would not be wise to make big changes,” Canetti said. “As we sit here today the core of the team will be intact and the main characters of this team are expected to be around and the plan is to add pieces around them in an effort to strengthen the team and provide depth.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.