Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Dynamo's young quartet learned on the job in 2011

The Houston Dynamo wanted to get younger in 2011. Mission accomplished.

MLS SuperDraft picks Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie and home-grown signings Alex Dixon and Josue Soto got a crash course on what it takes to be a professional soccer player as part of a squad that went through a rollercoaster season that culminated with an MLS Cup final appearance.

“It’s been a big transition from college,” said Bruin. “Trainings are a lot more intense and there’s a lot more asked of you. [Head coach Dominic Kinnear] and the guys helped us get through it well. That, plus it was awesome to be a part of that late run. Getting that experience in the first year is as big as it gets and to be a part of that is invaluable.”

Of the four rookies, Bruin made the biggest impact on the field, making 21 starts in 25 appearances. All things considered, Bruin became the most active and relied upon rookie in franchise history, tying for the team lead with five goals. While playing time was hard to come by for the group as a whole, the benefit of having a cadre of young players is that they can learn and grow together.

“When you’re on a team, you have a lot of guys who are in different stages of their lives,” said Sarkodie. “When you have guys your own age that you can relate to, and go home and talk about training or game experiences, it’s great to know others are in the same position. From that perspective, it’s great to have guys like Dixon and Will and Josue so you can all grow together.”

As they prepare for 2012, Bruin and Sarkodie, in particular, won’t have much of an offseason. The pair is currently on the Generation adidas tour in the Netherlands and are slated to take part in the U-23 United States men's national team camp in January along with teammate Danny Cruz and Dynamo academy center back Sebastien Ibeagha.

With their newfound experiences to draw upon, both during the season and this offseason, the quartet could be called upon to play big roles in 2012, as Houston looks to begin an era that will be marked by a new stadium and possibly the makings of a new young core.

“We made it to the finals this year and have a lot of young guys coming back next year and that’s an advantage for them and us,” veteran defender Geoff Cameron said. “They know what to expect. … When you’ve got young talented players like these guys, it’s great and they’ll have an opportunity to make an impact next year.”