Once you’ve hit bottom, there’s only one place to go.
That’s the situation the Houston Dynamo found themselves in at the end of 2016. But now, nearing the halfway mark of the 2017 season the Dynamo have 24 points from 16 games. Last season it took the Men in Orange 24 games to get as many points.
The forgetful 2016 season could in retrospect turn memorable, as the spark plug that started the Dynamo’s return to prominence. Entering the offseason Dynamo general manager and vice president Matt Jordan said the team had identified clear objectives that it wanted to accomplish.
Were FC Dallas, the Dynamo’s in-state rival and Friday night’s opponent (8 p.m. CT | TICKETS), seen as a model for how the Dynamo wanted to establish a new direction for the franchise?
“Dallas has done a great job and been one of the top teams in the league throughout the last few seasons. I think they’ve done a lot of positive things, but again we’re the Houston Dynamo,” Jordan said. “We have our own goals and what we’re working towards, and that’s what’s important for us. We focus on ourselves.”
When looking for a head coach to replace Wade Barrett, who replaced Owen Coyle midseason on an interim basis last year, the Dynamo did in fact focus inward. Houston hired Wilmer Cabrera as head coach after he had spent 2016 coaching the Dynamo’s new USL affiliate, Rio Grande Valley FC.
After signing Cabrera, the Dynamo quickly got to work rejuvenating the team. It started with the Re-Entry Draft yielding center back Leonardo and left back Dylan Remick, who’s proved to be a valuable backup for DaMarcus Beasley.
The additions of the attacking Honduran duo of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, Panamanian defender Adolfo Machado and Colombian midfielder Juan David Cabezas soon followed before 2016 ended. The coup de grace was a SuperDraft-day trade that brought LA Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza to Houston.
In one offseason the Dynamo revamped every facet of a soccer team. And while Elis and Quioto have garnered most of the media spotlight among the new Dynamo players with their dazzling goals, Machado has been quietly leading the defense. The center back has started every game this season and his 111 clearances leads all MLS players.
Machado’s expectations were clear when signing with Houston. The 32-year-old said he wants to get the Dynamo back in the playoffs after missing out the last three seasons.
“When you first arrive to an institution, you are not thinking about making mediocre stuff; you come thinking what’s the highest you can aim, and we’re working towards that,” Machado said.
The Dynamo resurgence has its roots in the winter of 2014 when Houston announced Jordan as the team’s general manager and vice president. It continued a year later when Gabriel Brener became the franchise's’ majority owner and ultimately culminated with the hiring of Cabrera.
“There is a lot of investment from the ownership group,” Deric said. “There has been a lot of time put in by expanding our coaching staff and expanding our management staff to make sure that we as players are put in the best position to win in the weekends.”
And despite those wins, Cabrera isn’t remotely ready to consider this rebuild close to a finished product. The former Colombian international called it a slow and gradual process that’s ongoing. He added that it’s not just a process of reconstruction with the players, but also the team’s mentality.
Heading into Friday’s clash against FC Dallas, Cabrera does likes how his team has been performing on the field lately.
“I like the mentality. I like the approaches to the game, the way we are playing. I like that we are not making excuses,” Cabrera said. “We are trying to get better, we know that we can get better and we are working on that every week and every day.”