HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo have one more chance to get a look at their roster in action before an offseason of decisions are upon them.
In Owen Coyle’s first year as head coach, the Dynamo were never able to hit their stride, failing to develop a consistent style as injuries, call-ups and bouts with poor play made consistency a goal that stayed out of reach. With no trip to the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs ahead, the Dynamo’s regular season finale Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps (7 pm ET; ESPN3) will be their last chance to see players in a game before continuing to build the club in a new image.
“We’re playing to continue to develop the young players,” Coyle said. “It’ll give us an opportunity as well with one or two of the younger ones continuing to progress. It’s a great opportunity for the younger ones but equally the senior players as well. When we come out of that … we’ll evaluate and decide how we like to move things on from there including next season.”
Coyle touted a core of players the club has in place, but several of the familiar names are out of contract heading into the offseason.
The club’s top three goal scorers Will Bruin, who declined to speak on ongoing contract negotiations during Wednesday’s media session, Ricardo Clark and Giles Barnes are out of contract as well as starting goalkeeper Tyler Deric. While the nucleus is strong, the club, and players, will have to decide whether they stay in Houston long-term.
One player Coyle said he will get a look at against Vancouver is Erick Torres. The Mexican international has yet to score for the Dynamo in what has mostly been a lost 2015 season. After an unsuccessful loan to Chivas Guadalajara, where he was seldom used, and legal troubles that delayed his arrival until mid-summer, Torres has done much more on international duty than he has in Dynamo orange.
After a successful Olympic qualifying tournament, in which he scored three times, Coyle wants to get him one last run before the offseason.
“We allowed him to go to the Olympic qualifiers because we wanted to get him a rhythm and games under his belt … and he did very well,” Coyle said. “He’s looked sharp in training since he’s come back. It’s always difficult coming in the middle of the season… the best you’ll see of Erick is when he comes back in the preseason. He’ll score goals, I’ve got no doubt about that. Nothing’s altered my opinion of that.”
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While some veterans could be on the way out, Houston do have a group of young talented players such as Leonel Miranda – whose loan is up after the season – Rasheed Olabiyi and Mauro Manotas. Getting them one last run would provide a final glimpse on how they can contribute moving forward.
Houston, who will miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in club history, certainly have ground to make up in a Western Conference only getting stronger. Coyle said road form and speed up top are two areas in which he’ll be looking to improve the club.
“I think we’ve shown this season at times we can stand toe-to-toe … and there’s been times where we let opportunities pass us by,” Coyle said. “It’s important to recognize that we do need to improve certain areas of the team.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.