Center back combination hangs in the balance as Houston Dynamo near season opener

As the preseason winds to a close, the question of who starts next to Jermaine Taylor remains

As we covered in the first installment of our countdown to kickoff series, the core of the Houston Dynamo squad that has been so successful over the past several years remains intact. In fact, of the 13 players that played more than 1600 minutes for the Dynamo in 2013, 11 return for the start of 2014. One, Adam Moffat, was traded last September for Servando Carrasco. After the deal, Warren Creavalle grew into the starter’s role and will most likely continue that this year.

The other player missing from that list was a mainstay of the Dynamo back line for the past six years, never missing more than handful of games per season: Bobby Boswell. While the rest of the starting lineup is likely settled, the position battle for the remaining center back spot retains its intrigue.

Eric Brunner was brought on last offseason and served as the third center back, appearing in 13 games (nine starts) during the regular season. With Jermaine Taylor's injury just before the playoffs, Brunner stepped in capably to start all five games in the postseason run.

His competition is a former Portland Timbers teammate, David Horst, who the Dynamo traded for in December. Horst struggled with injuries last season after starting 20 games for the Timbers in 2012, but has been healthy and ready to go this preseason.

Both players have seen plenty of action with the first group in preseason games so far, with Taylor only just making his way back onto the field for match fitness. Saturday’s match against D.C. United saw Taylor paired with Horst as the starting group played 72 minutes, but it remains to be seen if this is tipping the hand of the starting pair, or if Dominic Kinnear will try Taylor and Brunner side-by-side in one of the remaining two preseason matches in Charleston.

Anthony Arena and 2014 SuperDraft pick AJ Cochran round out the center back depth, but don’t look to be starting options at the moment.

Regardless of who gets the nod for the starting spot on March 8 against the New England Revolution at BBVA Compass Stadium, both players will be expected to play major roles throughout the year, as Brunner showed first-hand last year.