HOUSTON – What a difference a year makes.
For the Houston Dynamo, that phrase has taken on a deeper meaning when looking back at the state the club after the 2016 season. Dynamo president Chris Canetti alluded to that fact in the club’s season-ending news conference as he and his staff geared up for another important winter.
“We sat on this podium in late October [of 2016] when we announced the hiring of Wilmer [Cabrera] as our head coach. And I think there were a lot of questions surrounding the future of the Houston Dynamo and where we were going as a club,” Canetti said in his opening statement to the media.
“Thankfully, we had a successful season and a lot of those questions were answered in terms of what is the future of the club and where we’re going.”
Reaching the Western Conference Championship a year after being one of the worst teams in the league is quite a turnaround, but such a feat isn't new in MLS.
The Colorado Rapids have a similar story to tell. In 2015, the Rapids finished dead-last in the league, only to nearly win the Supporters’ Shield and reach the Western Conference Championship a season later. This year, however, Colorado stumbled back to bottom-of-the-table status.
Houston see this cautionary tale and wants to avoid it at all costs.
“There's a lot of positive signs about the season we’ve had and the foundation that we’ve set and the future that’s ahead. So, it’s going to get tougher. We’re not going to surprise anybody going into next season,” Canetti said.
“There’s some work to be done on the roster this offseason and these guys [Cabrera and VP/general manager Matt Jordan] have already been working their tails off in making the moves that need to be made.”
Two of those moves — and arguably the most important — were acquiring Alberth ‘La Panterita’ Elis and Juan David Cabezas on full transfers from their respective teams, and last week the Orange did just that.
Jordan said the front office was pleased to retain Cabezas and Elis, whom he called “vital pieces.” And while the details of the deal haven’t been released, Jordan alluded to these moves, along with signing Tomas Martinez earlier in the season, as statements that the Dynamo’s ownership group is willing to invest in the pursuit of sustained success.
“These players fit into our strategic plan. All three players are at a great age with capacity for more growth. And that’s something that’s important as we move to next season and beyond,” Jordan said.
“[With] the acquisition of Alberth Elis, Juan David Cabezas and Tomas Martinez in the summer, I think we believe the future is bright. We know that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us but [these moves] are really positive for our club moving forward.”
The Dynamo have counted on DaMarcus Beasley for the past three seasons, but the left back now finds himself a free agent after his contract expired. Could the 35-year-old four-time World Cup veteran be back in orange next season? Jordan said the club is open to Beasley returning to the Dynamo and have had discussions with his representatives, though both sides are content to let him consider his choice.
“We’ll see. I have time to think about it,” Beasley told the Houston Chronicle at the “Kick In For Houston” charity soccer game at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday. “I have spoken with Houston. They’re being patient. They’re giving me time. I appreciate that. That’s where I’m at right now.”
Time will tell if Beasley comes back. But the preparations for 2018 are well underway.
“We know that we aren’t the underdog anymore,” Cabrera said.
“Now, they look at us with more respect so we need to confirm what we have done. We need to confirm every game what we have done throughout this season that it wasn’t lucky. It’s just the project and the process that we’ve been working on here every day.”