Nigel Brooks

Competition is king for Houston Dynamo in preseason training

If the season started today it would not be hard to predict what the Houston Dynamo roster would be. Despite a shift in management, the club returns a litany of established players with enough skins on the wall for them to be logical choices.

That’s not what the preseason is about in Houston. As the club heads to Tucson, Arizona, for their first MLS versus MLS action with three games, head coach Owen Coyle is clear he wants to make competition for spots a fair fight.

“I wouldn’t tell you any different, if I had to go and play Columbus Crew tomorrow I think I’d have in my mind what that starting eleven would be,” Coyle told the media Tuesday. “But we’re not and that’s why this is such a special time, because it gives every player an opportunity to say ‘you know what coach, I deserve to be in that team and I’m going to show you within those games.’

“I think there’s players that have shown they have tremendous pedigree,” Coyle continued. “Having said that, and I’ve got to say it in this sport, but it’s got to be a fair fight and some of the young players have excelled in the last 10 days. I think it’s fair to say there’s a number of young players that are pushing the senior players.”

Competition’s been the name of the game for Houston this preseason. It seems anyone wearing orange this preseason has touted the competition that an offseason of moves have brought.

Does that mean a veteran standout like Brad Davis will be watching when the club plays Columbus Crew SC on March 7? The likely answer is no, but that doesn’t have him or the club’s veterans sitting on their laurels.

“I’m still competing my [tail] off for a job. Everybody should have the mindset that they're challenging for a spot week-in and week-out,” Davis told the media. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to put the puzzle together the best possible way to have a successful season. This is the perfect time to start doing that.”

That process started Tuesday in Arizona with a 3-2 win versus former boss Dominic Kinnear and the San Jose Earthquakes. The club will play the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps before returning next Wednesday.

For the veterans is another part of the process. For newcomers like Leonel Miranda or youngsters like Oumar Ballo and Zach Steinberger it’s the first chance to show what they can do.

Coyle said the club will have set rosters that will split time during the games, mentioning 45 minute stretches. While in the desert the new Dynamo boss is looking forward to getting their first real look of the competition he and his staff has tried to foster.

“I’ve been as a player, coach and manager … you’ll be judged what you do on the pitch when game time comes, not what you do on the training pitch,” Coyle said. “You can do all the training in the world you want but nothing beats playing games. That’s where you get your match fitness. It’s a different type of energy, a different type of running you’re doing. The games will be great for them.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.