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A Primer to the 2016 Houston Dynamo Season

New to the Houston Dynamo? Miss everything that happened over the offseason? Check out this primer to get you all caught up and ready for the season opener this Sunday against the New England Revolution (TICKETS).

Head Coach: Owen Coyle
2015 Record: 11-14-9, 42 points (8th in Western Conference)
Goals Scored: 42
Goals Allowed: 49

Players In

Goalkeeper: Calle Brown
Defenders: Jalil Anibaba, Bradley Bourgeois, Agus García, Sebastien Ibeagha, Abdoulie Mansally
Midfielders: Christian Lucatero, Cristian “Chaco” Maidana, David Rocha, Collen Warner, Andrew Wenger

Players Out

Goalkeeper: Michael Lisch
Defenders: AJ Cochran, Taylor Hunter, Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor
Midfielders: Brad Davis, Luis Garrido, Alexander López, Rasheed Olabiyi, Memo Rodriguez, Nathan Sturgis
Forward: Chandler Hoffman

It was a second consecutive offseason of high turnover for the Houston Dynamo as general manager Matt Jordan and head coach Owen Coyle continue to put their stamp on the team, with 10 new players entering the fray. The biggest move came on the first day of the MLS trade window, picking up Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger in a trade from the Philadelphia Union, giving the Dynamo two new dynamic pieces in the attacking third of the field. On the defensive end, depth was improved at every position after the team was left scrambling at points of the 2015 season due to injuries and international absences, though some of the additions could push for starting positions, especially at center back.

How They’ll Line Up

Due to a mixed amount of player availability, Coyle lined his team up in a few different formations during preseason. The formation will hinge on the decision of whether to play one or two strikers up top. Expect the team to be fluid in its shape depending on the personnel on the field, but a likely starting formation for March 6 would be a 4-2-3-1, with an advanced playmaker and two wingers providing support for a lone forward (though the team also showed 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 looks often during the preseason). Here’s how the team could line up on Sunday:

Houston Dynamo - Football tactics and formations

The Dynamo Will Make the Playoffs If…

They can pick up points on the road. The Dynamo ended 2015 nine points out of a playoff spot, yet only had two wins (and five draws) in 17 away matches. That tied with the LA Galaxy as the second-fewest road wins in MLS (Chicago Fire had zero wins away from home). For example, the Dynamo’s home record (9-4-4) was comparable to that of Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9-6-2) and the Portland Timbers (8-3-6), yet those teams finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the Western Conference thanks to their road records (7-7-3; 7-8-2).

Who To Watch

Newcomers Maidana, Wenger, Rocha and Agus will likely figure heavily in the gameday squad, and Mexican striker Erick “Cubo” Torres looks to be in fine form with a full preseason under his belt with the Dynamo, but the name that has consistently come up from players and coaches alike this spring has been young Colombian striker Mauro Manotas. The 20-year-old came off the bench nine times in MLS play last year, but scored in the U.S. Open Cup and twice against Santos Laguna in the BBVA Compass Charities Cup. His technical skill on the ball is evident in his hold-up play, and he is a talented striker of the ball. Manotas will need to improve his decision making, but the skills are there for him to make a difference in MLS games this season.

What To Watch

Obviously you’ll want to catch the start of the season on March 6 against the New England, but there’s several more marquee matches making their way through Houston in 2016. The Dynamo welcome northern rivals FC Dallas to town twice this year, with the first coming March 12. The team also gets two bites at home against the LA Galaxy with their collection of big name players, on April 15 and October 16. New York City FC—with David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard—make their first visit to Houston on September 30, while the reigning MLS champions Portland Timbers come the week before on Sept. 24.