Andrew Driver was looking to test himself in his next career move. With his time at Scottish Premier League club Heart of Midlothian running its course, the 25-year-old was looking for a place that would provide a challenge while also fitting his style.
He found just that with the Houston Dynamo.
Instead of seeking another opportunity in his native land, the England-born Driver chose to sign with the Dynamo and enters a situation that he feels can re-energize a career that at one time, had him ranked as one of the top young players at Hearts.
Why is Driver confident he can take that next step forward with Houston? One reason is that the club’s style under manager Dominic Kinnear, who spoke highly to MLSsoccer.com about the winger’s work rate and ability going forward, is familiar to him and right in line with the things he does well.
“Obviously at Hearts and in the Scottish league, you’ve got to work hard both ways,” Driver told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “As a player and a team, you’ve got to do the dirty side sometimes. You don’t get applauded for it sometimes, but it’s something you’ve got to do.
“The manager likes hardworking players and that’s what I like to think I am,” he added. “I know I will have to do that to play for the manager.”
While Driver’s style fits with the Dynamo’s, the winger has some work to do. His promising young career was derailed in 2010 with a serious knee injury that cost him nearly 18 months. Once back, finding his form and confidence proved difficult as playing time was hard to come by and the stop-start nature of his rehab took its toll.
Many of the concerns about Driver revolve around the fact that he has not yet rekindled the same type of pace and game-changing ability he had before his injury.
The last three months, however, have Driver optimistic that things are coming around.
“I’m really back to enjoying playing football again,” Driver said. “It’s been a bit stop-start this year, but over Christmas, I really came back into form. To get the fitness and physicality back is a positive for me and is a major part of my game.”
Driver said he is feeling confident as he readies to leave for the US. He knows, however, that earning the opportunity to turn that form and confidence into production in Houston will be a challenge. He joins a team that has incumbents Brad Davis and Boniek García manning their wings.
“I see that as a positive,” Driver said. “It was something the manager pointed out to me. It’s a good challenge and they said, ‘If you do end up playing, then you’re playing on merit.’ It’s the best way to do it.
“I’m by no means a finished player,” the winger continued. “I want to improve as a player and take the chance to learn with these guys. That’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.