Three yards. That’s how much wider the field will be this season at BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo.
It seems like a small change, but it speaks loudly about the step the Dynamo are about to take in 2015, which kicks off with a visit from Columbus Crew SC on Saturday (7:30 p.m. CT, TICKETS).
Much has been said about what will be different under new boss Owen Coyle and the club's influx of new talent. Heading into their debut with the new coach, the edict for the club is simple: Be aggressive, attack and circulate the ball.
“One of the things that has stood out for me is that sometimes you have to understand in sports you’ve got to allow players to be free and express themselves and that’s pretty much what it is for me,” center back Jermaine Taylor told MLSsoccer.com. “[Coyle’s] pretty sure and he’s confident in us.
“He’s motivated me and the others, and [is] trying to see the best in guys and push us,” Taylor continued. “One of the things for me personally is that some of the time you need new faces to make a difference. I do think we needed that change to get us going in a different direction.”
Coyle has talked about wanting his players to express themselves. Giving them a bit of extra room on their home pitch will play into that. With more space comes more room to pass, move and exploit spaces under the Houston sun that will grow hot in a few months.
“We want to pass and move the ball around the park,” Coyle said. “[Widening the field] allows us to do that. As much as we’re very hard-working, the key to the game will be kicking the ball – utilize that and have composure on it to pass and move and work opponents.”
Added forward Will Bruin: “Spacing’s going to be huge. Our wide guys, we want them to stay wide. If they all come central it just clogs up the middle. I think this widening of the field is good for us and it’ll make us better at home, but also on the road.”
The new message is not necessarily a drastic change. Many of the players are holdovers from last season, when the team looked to employ some of the same tactics. Looking at Houston’s lineups in the final stages of preseason, and it’s fair to say there will not be much turnover in the starting group.
The difference then will come from a fresh mindset, and a message that that needed a new tune.
“To be in a system where everybody’s kind of fresh and has that fresh start, it kick-starts you,” Dynamo captain Brad Davis said. “You have this opportunity and nothing’s guaranteed. Maybe last year no matter what happened, you were kind of guaranteed to play, and this year nothing’s necessarily guaranteed.
“[Coyle] has a history of taking a lot of young players and making them very successful and creating that environment that will allow them to be as successful as possible. So far, overall, I think the environment’s one that’s going to breed success.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.