2013 Houston Preview: MLS Cup or bust for loaded Dynamo
2012 record: 14-9-11 (53 points); 48 GF / 41 GA (+7 GD)
With one week left until opening day, MLSsoccer.com is halfway through previewing each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part one of two previewing Houston's 2013 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
It was another year and another heartbreaking finish in 2012. The Houston Dynamo looked to be the bell of the postseason ball last season, making an impressive run through the Eastern Conference bracket to come to within 30 minutes of the crown only to have it snatched away for the second year in a row by the LA Galaxy.
With another close-but-no-cigar season in the rearview mirror, the Dynamo’s path forward was fairly easy to sum up: Lock up the foundation and try and add some firepower to bolster their roster.
Done and done.
The Dynamo locked up the entire starting XI from the 2012 MLS Cup final and, for good measure, added a proven striker in Omar Cummings to the mix. With the likes of Boniek García, the budding Will Bruin and perpetual standout Brad Davis to go with a strong defense the Dynamo look primed for a run that could finally have the club putting the coveted third star over the crest.
In and Out
IN: D Eric Brunner (12/3, trade from Portland), F Omar Cummings (12/23, trade from Colorado) and F Jason Johnson (1/17, SuperDraft), MF Andrew Driver (2/20, loan from Heart of Midlothian)
OUT: M Colin Clark (12/3, Out of Contract), D Andre Hainault (1/10, Out of Contract), F Mac Kandji (1/10, Out of Contract), F Colin Rolfe (1/24, Waived), M Josue Soto (1/24, Waived), M Je-Vaughn Watson (2/19, traded to FC Dallas)
Star Attraction: Boniek García
It says something about the Dynamo roster when this is a tough decision, but García is worth the price of season tickets, not just admission. The smiling Honduran was a revelation after his June capture from Honduran champions Olimpia, showing a smooth touch on the ball and an unlimited gas tank. Facing his first full MLS season, the Honduran international has the time and ability to take MLS by storm. The only thing that could keep him from an MLS Best XI season could be international duty. If not, García is a favorite to become the breakout star of 2013.
Unsung Hero: Bobby Boswell
As his teammates' push their way into the spotlight, it could be easy to overlook the work that Boswell does on the backline. Those that watch week in and week out, however, know how valuable he is to the side. The defender has blossomed into a true field general who barks orders and keeps the machine clicking. His ability to keep the Dynamo backline in order despite considerable changes in 2012 is a testament to that ability. While other players are getting national team call-ups and national attention, Boswell has morphed into the man behind the Dynamo curtain pulling the levers and making sure things stay on track.
Ready for Primetime: Kofi Sarkodie
After nearly two years watching from the sidelines, Sarkodie seized his chance late last season. Taking the place of Andre Hainault, he showed his mettle in the playoffs after being asked to shore up the right side late in the season. Adding an element of speed and athleticism at right back, Sarkodie enters 2013 as the incumbent with the stage set to turn all the potential that made him the No. 7 pick in 2011 into production. If so, this could be the true beginning of a standout career.
Storylines to Watch
1. Will the Dynamo have a case of the national team blues? The downside to having a deep and stacked roster is that many of the players will be counted on by their national teams. With Jamaica, Honduras and the US all potentially leaning on the Dynamo roster for World Cup qualifying and Gold Cup duty, Houston’s depth will be tested.
2. Can they protect Fortress BBVA? The Dynamo enter 2013 on a 25-game unbeaten streak at home in regular-season play, four shy of Real Salt Lake’s record of 28. Will they continue to make their orange-clad home a house of terror for visitors?
3. Will the CCL slow them down in the league? The Dynamo will have CONCACAF Champions League business both early and late in 2013. Is the roster deep enough to sustain two big runs in the region’s marquee tournament?
4. Can they put it all together for 34 games? For all the playoff success the past two seasons, the regular season has been a mixed bag. Is this the year the Dynamo return to regular-season glory? If so, the reward would be booking MLS Cup 2013 on their home turf.
What He Said
"A successful year is MLS Cup. That’s it. That’s what you play for the whole year. Obviously you have the Open Cup and you have CONCACAF Champions League. But you talk about what Kansas City did and what San Jose did. They won trophies. That’s great, but they even admit that it’s a bit bittersweet to be eliminated from the playoffs. There’s only one team that was probably happy at the end of last year and that’s LA. Our goal is to make sure that we’re the team at the end of the year that’s the happy team."
– Bobby Boswell on what will make 2013 a success.
If Everything Goes Right
The Dynamo will lift the MLS Cup at BBVA Compass Stadium on Dec. 8. Loaded with depth and stars up and down the roster, Houston have an impressive combination of size, speed, experience and scoring punch that has the club’s sights set firmly on the top prize. If the Dynamo stay healthy and make it through their international call-ups and CCL duty, the club is built to make a run yet again in the playoffs. If they make the road go through BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dynamo could be adding another title to their already storied history.