Preseason doesn't bother Dynamo

Despite injuries, absences, Houston focused on March 27 game

Houston's training camp this year is unlike any other in the team's
history. For the first time since the hectic 2006 campaign, Houston is
not preparing for CONCACAF elimination rounds; the starting midfield is
the most unsettled it has ever been; and injuries both old and new have
plagued the squad.

For all that, however, the Dynamo have their eyes on the March 27 league
opener at rival FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, even if it is
five weeks away.

"We've run into a lot of injuries recently, in the last couple days, and
I think that's hurt us a little bit in terms of where guys are at, but I
think our focus is March 27 up in Dallas, and that's our sole purpose
right now," veteran goalkeeper Pat Onstad said. "We don't have to focus
on CONCACAF and try to jump in there early. We're still far from the
finished product, but hopefully we'll be ready by March 27."

Injuries include rehab for Kevin Harmse, acquired in the offseason from
Chivas USA, has yet to fully participate in drills, while Richard
Mulrooney, continues to recover from last summer's knee surgery.
Additional knocks to Andrew Hainault, Luis Angel Landín, and Craig
Waibel and national-team callups for Geoff Cameron, Brian Ching, and
Brad Davis have kept the Dynamo from any sort of lineup consistency.

Those absences, however, have provided plenty of playing time for
rookies and trialists hoping to impress head coach Dominic Kinnear and
earn a spot on the squad. This Dynamo group is unsettled perhaps more
than any other in the team's short history, with both senior and
developmental roster slots available.

"Everybody that's here is trying to first-off make the team and then
contribute, and you don't know if the guy next to you is going to be
around all year or if you will be," Mulrooney said.

Trialists Khadim Diouf, and Blessing Kaku all saw significant time in
the first three scrimmages but were let go this week and will not make
next week's trip to Florida. French midfielder Léandre Griffit will go
to Orlando trying to prove he can contribute to the Dynamo this year,
while younger players Sammy Appiah, Peter Maciel, Francisco Navas, and
David Walker are trying to earn a roster spot as well.

With the Dynamo's history of slow starts in MLS play often attributed to
their participation in CONCACAF play early in the season, Dynamo
players hope their single-minded focus on MLS play will yield positive
results this year. Onstad cautioned, however, against overconfidence.

"I think in some respects it's nice, because we don't feel pressure to
be ready right away," Onstad said. "In other respects, we've got to be
careful and not to be complacent so that all of a sudden the season is
upon us and we're not ready."

Anxious to get back into action, Mulrooney said the Dynamo are on track
to gauge their progress at the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic in
Orlando February 25-27 in which Houston will face New York in the
semifinals.

"I think we're exactly where we're supposed to be," Mulrooney said.
"We've won against college teams and won handily. There would be
concerns if we didn't win those games or, more importantly, if we didn't
play well, but I thought we played pretty well, with the exception of
maybe one half. Come Orlando time, those games are going to be big
because it's the competition we're going to be playing all year long,
and we'll see how we've done in preseason - if we're up to the level or
if we've fallen behind, but I think we're above the curve right now."