HOUSTON -- For the last three years, it can be argued that the Houston Dynamo have had an identity crisis — and it’s easy to see why.
In those three years, the club had three head coaches with three different philosophies. That uncertainty and confusion caused the Dynamo to miss the playoffs during each of those three years while also forcing them to sink to the bottom of the Western Conference the last two.
Those results aren’t the standard the club set when it moved from San Jose in 2006. The Dynamo advanced to the playoffs in seven of their first eight years in Houston. In that span, the club raised two MLS Cups, made four MLS Cup appearances, and reached six Conference Finals.
Those glory days are long gone but Houston are ready to start their ascent again. Five days into the offseason, on Oct. 28, the club made its first big move by announcing the hiring of Wilmer Cabrera as the franchise’s fourth head coach. Cabrera was deemed the right person to get Houston back on track.
“When we hired Wilmer [Cabrera], part of the objective was for him to help us regain our identity,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com in a telephone call this week. “It’s something that we had lost over the last few years with our club.”
Cabrera’s coaching stint with the Dynamo is still in its infancy but the former Colombian international knows what kind of identity he wants from the team, and it starts with the club and the city.
“Like the name Dynamo, it’s energy, it’s passion, teamwork, so all those things,” Cabrera said during the club’s first training session of the season. “For me, when I hear Dynamo, it’s passion, heart, the diversity of the city. Houston, for me, it’s that. Hopefully we can bring that to the city and the players can express that on the field.”
Is the current 23-man roster capable of implementing that vision and identity for the club going forward?
“We, the coaching staff, believe so because the players are like that,” Cabrera said at Dynamo training this week. “The characteristics of the players we brought in, is not just that they are good players, but that they have that passion, that drive ... that hunger for victory and to get results.”
Cabrera has made changes to the Dynamo’s training sessions from years past. Most notably, they've built a scaffold stand to record practices.
Aside from having a new coach that is looking to implement a new identity, the Dynamo have also introduced nine new players into the fold that they believe will help make the team more competitive on the field. Five of the new players are expected to make their MLS debuts in 2017, while the four others have previous MLS experience.
This edition of the Dynamo roster includes a larger Latino influence than in years past as well. Of the current 23-man roster, 11 players hail from Latin American countries, with Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Uruguay and Mexico being represented.
Assembling a diverse team that all of Houston can relate to was a priority for the Dynamo, but so too was getting back to the glory days of the club.
“Going back to day one, we’ve always said the most important thing is winning," said Canetti. "The ideal thing, is winning with a roster that reflects the demographic makeup of the city. Our hope is that we can become a winning team again and that we have a roster full of players that our entire city and fan base feels excited about and feels as though it’s a representation of our community.”