Roster balancing act results in midfield turnover for the Houston Dynamo
In June, an aerial acrobat called Nik Wallenda completed a quarter-mile tightrope walk 1,500 feet above a windy gorge near the Grand Canyon. If that sounds like a difficult balancing act, maybe he should try managing an MLS club at transfer deadline time.
Club president Chris Canetti and head coach Dominic Kinnear held a meeting ahead of Friday's roster freeze deadline where they devised a strategy aimed at keeping the team competitive this season as it bids for a playoff place, while also taking into account the need to build for the long term.
Their goal, as with all MLS clubs, is to shape the strongest possible roster within the league's complex financial framework.
From those delicate calculations, the opportunity arose to make a deal that would see the Dynamo lose a respected and valued contributor but add a slightly younger and more versatile player with a comparable skill-set, as well as gaining a second-round pick in next year's SuperDraft. The move was completed on Friday afternoon, just a few hours before the window closed.
So, farewell, Adam Moffat and welcome, Servando Carrasco. The 25-year-old was expected to be playing for Seattle Sounders on Friday night in their big Western Conference clash against Real Salt Lake. Instead, the Dynamo were looking at ways to get him on a plane to Philadelphia so he can watch his new club take on the Union in a vital Eastern Conference game at PPL Park on Saturday night (6:30 p.m. CT; CSN Plus, Mega TV).
Moffat leaves after 26 months in Houston that featured two runs to MLS Cup, great admiration for his intensity, many mentions of his facial hair and the occasional net-busting strike from distance. The move reunites the Scot with Sigi Schmid, the Seattle head coach, who managed Moffat in 2008 when they were at the Columbus Crew.
Regret at seeing a popular player leave is counterbalanced by the arrival of a fresh face who has proved himself to be a valuable contributor for one of the most talented teams in MLS. Carrasco made 19 appearances (13 starts) and provided a goal and an assist for Seattle this season. The University of California, Berkeley product was the 27th-overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft and played 40 times for the Sounders.
So he's primed to contribute straight away in Houston, though he has a battle on to secure a starting place as central midfield is a position where the Dynamo have solid depth, with the likes of Ricardo Clark, Warren Creavalle, Brad Davis, Alexander López and Giles Barnes all able to play there.
"I'm a big fan of Adam's and this trade wasn't easy," said Kinnear, who likes Carrasco's skill on the ball and ability to play several positions. "He can sit in the middle, he can play out wide. Having someone with his versatility will be very valuable to us," he said.
The immediate task is a win on Saturday that will lift the Dynamo above the Union and back into the East's top five. "We're all kind of bunched together right now and a win here, a win there, could turn the table in a different way," said Kinnear.
Houston and Philadelphia are each seeking to bounce back from losses last weekend. Kinnear is wary of the Union's ability. "It's a talented bunch, obviously they weren't happy with their result and neither were we, so it's two teams looking to rebound from the previous week," he said.
Union striker Jack McInerney is without a goal in his past eleven matches for the team, but he has ten on the season and his form earlier in the year was so good that he was called into the U.S. Gold Cup squad. "He started out on fire and obviously hasn't scored for a while but he still makes runs and he's still getting chances," said Kinnear.
With McInerney, the creative Sebastien Le Toux and the bullish Conor Casey, Philadelphia pose a goal threat. But the Dynamo shut them out in the most recent meeting between the sides, a 1-0 home win at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 6 secured with a second-half goal from Clark.
Dynamo forward Giles Barnes expects a focused performance following the disappointment of last Sunday's defeat to the New York Red Bulls.
"It's never nice to lose, especially at home and when you think you've near-enough dominated the whole of the first half," he said. "We took the sucker-punch quite early in the first half, probably it deflated us a little bit. That's one thing we've got to overcome, kind of a mental thing. And I think we'll be ready for that challenge."