As Brad Davis joined up with the rest of the U.S. preliminary roster for pre-World Cup training in California, the Dynamo’s thoughts turned to how to replace him against high-profile visitors making the opposite journey.
Named to the 30-man squad on Monday, the Dynamo captain met up with Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team for the camp that began Wednesday at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
Houston welcome a team based 400 miles southeast of there on Saturday as the LA Galaxy visit BBVA Compass Stadium for the only regular season fixture between the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup finalists (7:30 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
Davis has contributed a goal or an assist in each of his past six MLS matches. Any team would miss such consistent production, but the Dynamo are delighted that his form has been recognized by his country.
“You’re really happy for Brad for the first step because it’s a fantastic tournament, he’s played ever so well for us and for the U.S. in the last year-and-a-half, you really hope he has a great camp and he makes that trip to Brazil and gets to play. We’d love to see him and [ex-Dynamo Geoff Cameron], both those guys playing for the U.S. in those important games,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters.
While it remains to be seen how many club games Davis will miss, his absence represents an opportunity for another player on the roster to step in and step up to the challenge of emulating the midfielder’s effort and creativity.
“When a guy leaves, someone else steps in. Andrew Driver scored a nice goal against Stoke last year on a free kick, we know he can serve some good balls in, so can [Boniek García and Giles Barnes]. Just because Brad’s gone doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon our dangerousness on set-pieces,” Kinnear said.
“You put the ball in the right spot on a consistent basis and you have good guys attacking the ball, it creates some problems. Obviously Brad won’t be there but we have other guys who can put the ball in those good spots as well.”
García was named to the Honduras roster but is available for Saturday. “With Andrew Driver here slotting into the left-hand side it makes it pretty easy and then the right hand side is a bit of a question mark … I think we’re covered well in those positions, in the middle, but we’ll see what happens on the right hand side, it could be a little bit by platoon and committee,” said Kinnear.
Houston beat LA 1-0 at the StubHub Center in May last year courtesy of a sharp and low first-time finish from the edge of the penalty box by Driver, while goalkeeper Tally Hall saved Landon Donovan’s penalty kick.
Left back Corey Ashe enjoys combining with the former Heart of Midlothian player along the wing. “He works hard for 90 minutes and we have a great understanding of each other and I love playing with him,” he said.
The 26-year-old has started all but one of the Dynamo’s eleven matches in his second season in Texas and has impressed with his work-rate and willingness to help out in defense, not least in the 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew earlier this month.
“We talked about it, I felt really bad against Columbus because their outside back was playing like an outside mid, their outside forward was kind of pinching in and so it was forcing me to have to stay [back],” Ashe said. “I felt really bad but he didn’t complain and he put the work in and that’s the kind of player he is.”
Surging forward to support the attack along the left flank, Ashe has already proved to be a useful source of assists this season. He is second on the team behind Davis, with three. That is one more assist than he managed in each of the previous two years and gives him a strong chance of surpassing his best-ever tally of four that was achieved in 2007, his rookie year.
“I try to get as many crosses as I can. At times they’re just hopeful crosses, you hope that the defense messes up,” he grinned. “I try to get forward, create more scoring opportunities and get numbers in the attack, help Andrew Driver out as much as I can.”
Ashe echoed Kinnear’s sentiments on Davis as he bids to claim a spot on the final 23-man roster by impressing Klinsmann in the coming days. “It’s nothing but happiness for him. For all of us the goal is to play in a World Cup and he has that opportunity,” he said. “Obviously we’re going to miss him on the field but we couldn’t be happier, the guy’s worked so hard and finally his hard work has paid off.”
As for coping without Davis, the 28-year-old pointed to the example of rookie Mark Sherrod, who replaced the injured Will Bruin in the lineup for last Sunday’s defeat to Real Salt Lake and scored twice.
“Other guys are going to have to be asked to step up. We’re definitely going to have guys off the bench, who that is we don’t know but it’s to be expected. Dom tells us at the beginning of the year: ‘injuries, suspensions, national team call-ups, those things happen so as a group you have to be ready when your name is called’. You look at Mark Sherrod, he came in—first start, two goals, that was huge for us,” Ashe said.