Depth is something that all coaches crave, but finding out just how deep your team is often comes at a steep price: lost points.
The Houston Dynamo have tested their depth early and often in 2011, as a number of projected starters have missed time through injury. However, the team has not skipped a beat, picking up eight points from five games while capitalizing on contributions from a number of players looking to take advantage of their playing time. Players such as Cam Weaver, Danny Cruz (pictured above), Corey Ashe, and Andre Hainault have played at a high level while replacing projected starters — something that has the club feeling good about its depth going forward.
“We have more depth this year than last,” said midfielder Lovel Palmer, who sat out Tuesday training with tendinitis in his left ankle. “Guys are stepping up when they get their chance. You see guys like Corey Ashe at left back, who's doing awesome. It's just more depth, more heart, determination — and guys who want to play.”
[inline_node:329975]However, this early-season depth test has come at the cost of missing some big names. Team captain Brian Ching has played a total of 54 minutes, missing time with a left rib separation and hamstring issues. Opening-day starting center back Jermaine Taylor is nursing a foot sprain and has played only one game. Newcomer Calen Carr is still recovering from a concussion that has kept him from debuting for the Dynamo.
Three additional players missed full training Tuesday. Palmer was joined by Hainault (groin injury), Francisco Navas Cobo (hamstring) and Cruz (hyper-extended knee) working out on the side or not participating in training. However, Palmer, Hainault, and Cruz were back at training Thursday.
“I’ve been icing non-stop," said Cruz. "I was in bed the last three days just icing my knee, and the training staff did a great job, and we did enough to get back out here. Sunday I really thought I was in some trouble. Now I’m hoping to come back this weekend, but we have to see how it reacts to these training sessions, and the final decision is up to [head coach Dominic Kinnear] and the training staff.”
While the injury report may be growing, the Dynamo have weathered the storm well and are looking to continue their winning streak on the road this weekend when they travel to face the Chicago Fire. With the club’s performances the past four weeks, the Dynamo are confident they can continue their early-season momentum in tough environment.
“We’re playing well, and we have a two-game winning streak and hope to make it three,” Palmer said. “I definitely want to play this weekend. It’s a nice atmosphere, and they beat us last year. So we need our best team out there.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.