HOUSTON – Owen Coyle led his first training session as Houston Dynamo manager on Monday, running his team through fitness drills and a bit of possession work in front of a big crowd at Houston Sports Park.
More important than the mechanics of the session, however, was Coyle’s message: A two-pronged approach emphasizing team unity and the need for players to express themselves.
Coyle will aim to instill those ideas into the Dynamo this preseason, with the former Wigan boss also placing a premium on Houston’s ability to take care of the ball.
“The biggest single thing in our game is players,” Coyle told the media. “If I lined up in a 4-3-3 and somebody played 3-5-2, the bottom line’s that if my players take care of the ball, and pass and move that ball, regardless of what their system is, we win the game because we’ve taken charge of the ball. In essence it’s making sure your players maximize and get your best.”
In past years, Houston had one of the smallest fields in the league, with the BBVA Compass Stadium pitch dimensions maxing out at 115 yards long and 70 yards wide during Dominic Kinnear’s tenure.
Keeping with his stated goal of being able to play more possession, Coyle is planning on opening things up, saying Monday that he’ll increase the width of the field by three yards this year.
“My belief is I want to pass and move the ball,” Coyle said. “With that we’ll widen the pitch a few yards because we want to pass and move the ball. We want it a little bit wider and that’s because of the way I’ve played. I look at the players we’ve got and I think that’s a good fit for the group we’ve got.”
Apart from instilling his new style of play, one of the biggest jobs facing Coyle this preseason is making sure he gets his players on the same page. The Dynamo return 17 players from their 2014 roster, but have added some significant pieces this offseason, with Erick "Cubo" Torres, Raul Rodriguez and Leonel Miranda – none of whom have arrived in camp yet – expected to play a particularly big role for Houston in 2015.
Captain Brad Davis is aware that Houston will need to adjust a bit this preseason, but isn’t too worried about Coyle meshing with the Dynamo players, new or old.
“I think one of the biggest things and most important things we truly have to believe is that this is a different group of guys,” Davis said. “It’s being a group and having the trust of your teammates.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that crazy of a change, it’s still soccer, it’s still the game we love. Sure, there’s going to be changes, but with the guys we have I don’t think it’s going to be too big of a transition for us.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.