Chance creation and speed. Those were two of the buzz terms coming into the offseason for the Houston Dynamo, and on Monday, the club believes they acquired both.
Houston landed playmaker Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for an undisclosed amount of targeted allocation money, allocation money and the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft.
It was a steep price for the Dynamo to pay, but if they’re right about the players they got in return, it could be a trade that goes a long way to curing the ills experienced in 2015.
Last season the club was inconsistent in creating chances. They struggled to find a consistent combination in the attacking third, and scored just 42 regular season goals, tied for the fourth-lowest total in the league.
That makes Maidana, who finished tied for second in the league with 15 assists last year, the key to the deal.
“He’s a player, when you look at our squad, that we’ve not had at the club,” head coach Owen Coyle told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview on Tuesday. “A No. 10 that can unlock defenses with that final pass. He has the great experience in different leagues and cultures. He’s a player that has a fantastic touch, he’s pleasing on the eye and can open defenses.”
In addition to being one of the league’s top assist men last year, Maidana also finished near the top of the MLS charts for key passes. If he can bring his ability to unlock defenses with him to Houston, Dynamo forwards Will Bruin, Giles Barnes and Erick “Cubo” Torres should benefit.
“We have a talented group of attacking players … at the end of the day you also have to have a player with a unique ability to get them the ball that can also find space to keep opposing defenses honest,” said general manager Matt Jordan.
Both Maidana and Wenger can help in that area. According to Jordan, Wenger will play on the wing for Houston, who are excited to add his threatening pace to the mix.
The pair do not come without issues however.
Maidana will need the right supporting cast around him as he will not cover a lot of ground in defense, and will need to find space to collect the ball and create. Wenger, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, is on his third MLS team. His skill set is enticing, but he’s struggled to settle in and produce in his previous stops in Philadelphia and Montreal.
“I think that’s a fair comment. I think … it’s important that he knows what’s asked of him,” Coyle said of Wenger. “I see him playing one place, and that’s in a wide area for me with blistering pace and power. He knows the role in the wide area that we want from him. Focusing him in that area with his skill, he can make full use of his abilities and talents.”
Making moves around the pair will be critical. At the top of that list is re-signing free agent Ricardo Clark. The club is currently in negotiations with the former U.S. international, who would be able to provide valuable defensive cover for Maidana in central midfield. The team will also likely target another central midfielder and are in talks with defender Sheanon Williams and midfielder Boniek García.
While the move does not make the Dynamo a finished product, it does put them closer to their goals. If Maidana and Wenger settle in, this could be the trade that translates into more goals, a much needed attacking boost, and, if all goes well, a potential return to the playoffs.
“You see it throughout the league. Most of the creative players in our league are attacking midfielders,” Jordan said. “It’s always important to find complimentary pieces to put around him, but we feel very good about the quality that Cristian brings to us. We already have a very talented group of attacking players.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.