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Q&A: Houston Dynamo manager Owen Coyle reflects on his first half-season in MLS

HOUSTON – It’s been four months since head coach Owen Coyle kicked off his inaugural MLS season at the helm of the Houston Dynamo, with the new manager having experienced some mixed results in his first half-season in charge.  

The club is in better shape after adding more depth and young talent to the squad, but the points have not followed. Houston currently sit in eighth in the Western Conference with 21 points out of 18 games. MLSsoccer.com recently caught up with Coyle to get his take on his first few months in the league.

Note: This Q&A has been edited for length.

MLSsoccer.com: How would you grade your first five months in Houston?

Coyle: For us, the thing coming in was understanding, following up from last season when the Dynamo failed to make the playoffs, that we always knew there was a lot of work to do. The Dynamo has a tremendous history and success, especially in the early years, and had a wonderful coach in [Dominic Kinnear]. So we knew there was a lot of work to do to get the Dynamo back to the level they were previously. I think there have been within that a lot of improvement at times and a lot of quality and terrific performances. Within that as well, the biggest thing we all crave is consistency.…

What we do know is the steps we’ve put in place will reap rewards for the club in the long run. It was never going to be, you sprinkle fairy dust and all of a sudden, I mean we have the same core group of players we had last year that missed [the playoffs] in the Eastern Conference. If we give balance we certainly know there’s progress to be made. We certainly know when we’re at our best we can take care of anybody. I think there’s a lot to be pleased about moving forward, but understanding there’s a lot of spots we can improve on.

MLSsoccer.com: What are some of the spots that you still want to implement new things or things you haven’t quite implemented yet?

Coyle: In terms of how we want to play and how we want to set up, I would probably like one or two pieces that give me flexibility for what I want to do in the big scheme of things. That’s good without getting into any specifics. For me, I’m learning on this job and in this league with everything that goes with it, the logistics, the traveling and equally the roster. It’s slightly different and I’m learning that from day-to-day, but [general manager] Matt [Jordan’s] here and keeps me understanding and for that information I can go to [assistant general manager] Nick Kowba…. Are we the finished article in how we want to play and the personnel in how we want to shape up? No. But we’ve also shown within what we’ve got we can be very competitive and win games and be up there challenging to get where we want to be in the short-term, but in the long-term there’s a few pieces we want to put together to move on.

MLSsoccer.com: You mentioned it in the offseason, is speed one of the areas you’d like to address?

Coyle: As I’ve said before there’s no getting away from it that the teams I’ve had have had a big amout of explosive speed. You look at the teams in the league and there’s fair to say they have that. That comes from a number of different things. It comes from players being available, comes down to financing and comes down to a number of different factors, but we continue that search to try and find the right types of fit for that jigsaw. We won’t make knee-jerk reactions but what we’ll do is we’ll be clever and calculated to move that forward.

MLSsoccer.com: What’s one thing you are happy that you’ve implemented?

Coyle: One thing we want to show is that in every game, that even if we’re not performing at our maximum … that we’re still in every game and I think we’ve shown that. There’s probably been one game that we’ve lost – at Dallas – where there was a period in the second half where we weren’t in the game. I think every other game we’ve played, I think the games we’ve lost by a goal, we’ve always been in the game to get a result and we want to make sure we have that core value that we’re sticking together and we’re working our socks off. I think we have that. Dynamo teams have always been known for that... and that’s what we we’ll look to do.

MLSsoccer.com: How has it been dealing with the international call-ups in season? That’s something you did not have to deal with in England.

Coyle: I’ve got to be honest with you, that’s been a huge frustration. Not just for me but I imagine every coach in MLS, whether they’ve been used to it or not. It doesn’t make it any easier.… In our case I think we’re one of the most affected by it because we can have up to six internationals missing, so all of sudden you’re ‘Oh, I’m without four for the Colorado [Rapids] game; I’m without four for Portland Timbers.’ It’s not an ideal situation. I know obviously the calendar year it runs through the international dates.… At Bolton Wanderers I had 14 internationals and not one ever missed a game. It is a source of frustration. Any coach will tell you [that] you want your best players to pick from. There’s obviously games coming up now with the Gold Cup but we’ve got to move on with it, make the best of it; but I can’t tell you it’s an ideal situation because it’s not.

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.