There's a different outlook to the Houston Dynamo as they exit MLS Cup and head into the offseason.
A year ago, the club was in the same position folllowing a Cup run, but there was a feeling that it wasn't a finished product. Fast forward 12 months, and a few key deals later, and the Dynamo enter a very short offseason focused on adding to a strong core rather than continuing a re-model.
“I think this was an important season for us,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “After going to the Cup last year, we probably got there ahead of schedule. We go into this offseason knowing we have a good core group and some things to sort out, but we’ve got some guys to pursue and the resources to do it.”
Helping in the those efforts to reinforce and to keep their core together was the summer sale of Geoff Cameron, which helped the club deal with escalating contracts and expand their shopping list for the 2013 season.
“The key move this season that hasn’t been talked about much is the transfer of Geoff Cameron,” Canetti said. “You look at Real Salt Lake having to cut bait and retool, we’re not facing that situation because of one really good move this summer.”
That move has already paid dividends by helping the Dynamo lock down their MLS Cup starting XI for next season. Moves to strengthen that core group began Monday with the acquisition of center back Eric Brunner to add to a stout defense in front of what Kinnear called the best goalkeeping duo in the league.
With the back line in good shape, the focus will be on the attacking area where – even before news of Calen Carr’s ACL injury broke – the club was looking to bring in reinforcements, with Kinnear pointing to “Central America and south of the border” as potential places to look.
Part of that attacking need could be addressed with the club’s current free agents. Houston have four players out of contract – midfielder Colin Clark (who the club said Monday will not return), defender Andre Hainault and forwards Cam Weaver and Mac Kandji.
Weaver is the best bet to come back first. The process with Hainault and Kandji may take some time, as the pair looks to explore the options available to them.
“Bona fide offers were made to both [Hainault and Kandji], which on some level is procedural,” Canetti said. “They have our offer, they know our intentions to have them back and I think we’re in a position where we need to wait for them to hear what they need to do.”
Making the qualifying offer will tie those players' rights to the Dynamo if they move to another league or within MLS.
While those players are out of contract, the club is also attempting to work with players whose options were declined. Per club policy, the names of those players have not been disclosed. Included in that group is Brian Ching (pictured, above left), whose option is not up until after the new year.
With rumors flying and scouting in full swing the offseason – Kinnear and Canetti will be in Alabama for the NCAA College Cup beginning Friday – there will be little respite as the Dynamo look to stay successful in an ever-changing MLS.
“It’s a difficult thing to do in MLS,” Kinnear said about staying on top. “If you know the rules we live by, the more successful you are, you somewhat get punished. The salary cap’s hard to maintain and it’s hard to keep a team together. We’ll try and get out as well as we can so when we start preseason we’ll have a good idea of who our first XI, 15, 18 and hopefully there’s some surprises, too.”