If there were times in 2013 when the Houston Dynamo looked out of sync, that is simply because they were.
Injuries and international duty made it difficult for the Dynamo to field a cohesive group week in and week out, despite the fact that the club conducted their usual postseason magic for a run to the Eastern Conference Championship.
In 39 MLS regular season and playoff games, the Dynamo used 23 different starting combinations. Despite that lack of consistency, Houston still managed to play deep into November before seeing their season end with a 2-1 aggregate loss to Sporting Kansas City in the East final.
Ultimately, those same issues cropped up in the end as injuries to three starters, Will Bruin, Ricardo Clark and Jermaine Taylor, helped trip them up in the two-game series. The result saw them fall short of their ultimate goal of a third MLS Cup title for the franchise, a standard for the club after two straight years in the title game in 2011 and 2012 and back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
“It was difficult,” Dynamo captain Brad Davis told the media Wednesday at a season-ending press conference. “I will say this year was definitely difficult to get into a rhythm. It is what it is, we took it as it came, but for the most part I thought we did well. We got ourselves in the playoffs. It was a difficult year, but I think our guys handled it well.”
The season saw the club hit historic highs and lows.
On the positive side, Houston got off to their best start in franchise history and got to their sixth conference final in club history. On the other hand, Houston gave up a franchise-worst four goals at home in a 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls and a club-worst 5-0 loss at the Montreal Impact.
“It’s no fun watching other teams play this late in the season,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “It’s not a treat at all, and I’d be surprised if many on our team sat down and watched the game Saturday because that’s the competitive nature that we have.”
Sitting in front of the Houston media while other teams prepare to play in the MLS Cup is an unfamiliar position for Kinnear. Had the Dynamo advanced to play Real Salt Lake on Saturday, it would have been the third straight appearance in the Cup for the club. Now they will have a longer than expected offseason to build their roster depth for another run at their usual lofty goals.
“We hold ourselves to a high standard and Dom holds us to a high standard,” Davis said. “We set out our goal and don’t like to come up short. We came up a little bit short. If there are other people out there that would be happy with what we have, great, but deep down inside we’re not satisfied.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.