Looking at the standings is a mixed bag for the Houston Dynamo. On one hand, the team will see 16 games remaining and a table that looks compact. On the other is a season’s worth of missed chances, injuries and forgettable performances.
With hopes of the playoffs always intact for the ever-optimistic club, the magic number is always 50 points for qualification in MLS.
Whether a little above or a little below, that is the target that will get teams within striking distance of the playoffs. With 16 games to cover 32 points, Houston knows there is urgency to make up ground, but is taking a clichéd-yet-pragmatic approach to the final half of the season.
“It has to be one game at a time. If you start doing that, it’s almost doom and gloom every single day if you’re not achieving your goals week-to-week,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “Obviously you are sooner or later running out of games towards the end of the season but I think you can maybe look and kind of plan. Which sometimes is a terrible thing to do because things don’t always go to plan.”
Many things have not gone to plan so far this season. Houston have been hit with injuries and the depth they believed would carry them through was not able to stem the overwhelming tide of absences and poor play.
Those absences prompted Kinnear to give the first half an incomplete when asked to grade the season so far, but went on to say: “It’s not an A, that’s for sure. It’s hard to completely grade it, but for the most part I think we could’ve done better the first part of the season.”
Now, the focus shifts forward.
One topic that’s popular is that of the team looking to get active in a transfer window that opened on Tuesday. The team discussed the club’s restrictive salary cap situation in May, saying they are always looking at possible additions, but can only work within the system. Speaking with the media Tuesday, Kinnear did point to a few areas the club could look to with one, the strike force, highlighted.
“I think with Mark [Sherrod] out we’re really carrying three [forwards], and four with [Jason Johnson], we’d like to carry more. So possibly a forward, possibly a midfielder or a defender,” Kinnear said. “Remember, after the World Cup everyone’s value in their own mind has gone up a lot more so you’re in a pretty competitive market and a pretty rich one.”
While the window is a fickle situation, the fate of the second half, unless something changes, will likely fall to the current roster.
Getting a point versus the New York Red Bulls last weekend was a start. While the game posed both potential solutions and continued questions, the players believe that seeing points go on the board is what they need to get going in the second half.
“It hasn’t been ideal for us … We had a team meeting and said it’s not the end of the world,” said left back Corey Ashe. “Being able to win at home is important, but a motto we have is 'Championship teams find ways to get results on the road.' I think we’ve kept ourselves in the mix. It’s obviously not where we want to be but we’ve given ourselves a chance.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.