With an 8-1-3 record, a much-needed sense of confidence, and in relatively good health, the Houston Dynamo close the book on a rousingly successful preseason. Here are three things we learned as the 2011 season opener vs. Philadelphia (buy tickets now) approaches:
1. Depth won’t be an issue
Head coach Dominic Kinnear employed a rotation strategy to give every player, including newcomers, time to get fit, acclimated, and show their skills – in some cases at multiple positions. The result is a team that, top to bottom, is game-ready and has quality depth.
Even at central midfield, where depth is thinnest, there are players such as Mike Chabala and Alex Dixon who have shown they provide quality minutes. On a team that’s battled injuries the past few seasons, having depth is more than a luxury, it’s a necessity.
2. Youth will get its chance
First-round 2011 MLS SuperDraft picks Kofi Sarkodie and Will Bruin have thrived, picking up on the Dynamo scheme and learning from the club’s veterans. Sarkodie made a quick transition and showed early in camp he was capable of playing quality minutes at the pro level.
While Sarkodie came out of the gate strong, Bruin has done his best work at the end of camp, scoring a team high six goals in the final four games. When you factor in solid camps by home-grown signings Dixon and Josue Soto, the Dynamo have four rookies who can contribute.
WATCH: Ching mentoring Bruin
“They’re young, fresh and energetic, and they bring a different style,” said Geoff Cameron. “From the first day of training, the rookies have stepped up and shown they're good players, and they’ll see a lot of time this year.”
3. Firepower in the box
The Dynamo concentrated much of their offseason efforts on improving the defense, but it was the offense that stood out. Entering preseason, there was some uncertainty about where the goals would come from, but the performances of Bruin, Jason Garey and Cam Weaver have provided reason for optimism. Combining their play with the excellent service of Davis, the club is dangerous in both the run of play and on set pieces.
“We’ve got big guys like Cam, Brian [Ching], Will, and Jason running onto the ball and with service from Brad, Corey [Ashe] or I,” Cameron said. "We’re going to create lots of chances."
What it all means
The Dynamo are coming into the regular season with momentum and with most, if not all, of their starters ready to go. Now it’s a matter of translating that confidence and scoring to the regular season.
“We came out of preseason relatively healthy, and we got some good goals,” said Kinnear. “Now the sleep gets shorter, the nerves grow, and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.