21 February 2012

Disney preview: Houston Dynamo

The 2012 Disney Pro Soccer Classic starts on Friday, signaling the final countdown to the MLS season. I’ll be calling games at the tournament for the third straight year, teaming up with Simon Borg as part of MLSsoccer.com’s coverage of the group stage and then working the final day of the tournament on the ESPN3 broadcasts. As the week goes on, I’ll preview each of the eight teams set to participate in Orlando.
The tournament starts on Friday, and Simon and I will call the second game of the doubleheader. The first game, called by the Kansas City duo of Callum Williams and Jake Yadrich, is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference final. That brings me to my third preview, Houston.

Disney Pro Soccer Classic
Team Previews

  • 2/20 Montreal
  • 2/20 Vancouver
  • 2/21 Houston
  • 2/21 Kansas City
  • 2/22 Toronto
  • 2/22 Dallas
  • 2/23 Orlando City
  • 2/23 Hacken
The basics
Team: Houston Dynamo (MLS)
Head Coach: Dominic Kinnear (9th season)

2011 results: 12-9-13, 2nd place, Eastern Conference
Playoffs: beat Philadelphia 3-1 aggregate, beat Kansas City 2-0, lost to LA Galaxy 1-0

Returning Starters: DF Corey Ashe, DF Bobby Boswell, MF Luiz Camargo, DF Geoff Cameron, FW Brian Ching, MF Brad Davis, DF Andre Hainault, GK Tally Hall, MF Adam Moffat
Key Newcomers: FW Macoumba Kandji

I’m looking forward to watching …
Kandji (Courtesy Nigel Brooks)
Macoumba Kandji. His form in MLS has been inconsistent, to say the least, but I see huge up-side in the 26-year-old, and Dominic Kinnear has worked on more than his share of reclamation projects. Acquired earlier this month in a trade with Colorado, Kandji has a combination of size and speed unseen in Houston since Kei Kamara’s departure in 2009, and Kandji could be a complement to any one of the Dynamo’s numerous other forward options. The Dynamo will likely rotate forward pairings throughout the tournament, so fans should get to see plenty of Kandji. 

Most important player …
Luiz Camargo. The Dynamo made several changes late last season to key their run to the MLS Cup final, bringing in Adam Moffat in place of Lovel Palmer and shifting Geoff Cameron to center back, but Camargo was the key to it all. His ability in central midfield allowed the Dynamo to play Cameron at the back (Houston then allowed three goals in its last seven games in which it had a first-choice back line), and Camargo’s vision and passing touch are tremendous. His offseason, however, was not the best: Reportedly hampered by injury, he reported to camp out of shape and was relegated to fitness work at times during the preseason. Although he could be a slow starter, a full season with a familiar group of teammates should lead to a productive year.

Under the radar …
Nathan Sturgis. Acquired from Toronto in the offseason, Sturgis – still only 24 – is not in the Dynamo’s first 11 but could wind up a regular starter. How’s that? Sturgis is on the depth chart at central midfield and center back and could also be called upon at outside midfield or outside back. Consider that the Dynamo have four internationals (Cameron, Andre Hainault, Kofi Sarkodie (U-23), Jermaine Taylor) among their top six defenders, will play a congested schedule after May 12, and face four CONCACAF Champions League games. With all that, Sturgis could be called on a lot. He could see time at several spots in Orlando, with Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson missing the first part of the tournament while playing for Jamaica, Sarkodie missing almost all of it for United States U-23 duty, and Cameron potentially missing time if he is called into the next U.S. squad.

On trial …
Brad Davis’s quad. Well, sort of. Davis, a runner-up for the league MVP award last year, was cleared to return to training this week following the effects of the devastating quad injury he suffered in last year’s conference final. The Dynamo will likely be careful with Davis; with only seven games in the season’s first nine weeks while waiting for BBVA Compass Stadium to open, Houston can afford to let Davis take his time returning.
From a roster perspective, Houston is mostly looking to fill developmental spots, with 22-year-olds Emerson Sato (a Brazilian forward) and Oscar Recio (a Mexican defender) potentially joining goalkeeper Erich Marscheider and draft picks Warren Creavalle, Brian Ownby, and Eder Arreola in Orlando.

Friday, February 24, 5 p.m. CT, Houston vs. Sporting KC
(MLSsoccer.com – Williams / Yadrich)
Sunday, February 26, 12 noon CT, Houston vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
(MLSsoccer.com – Yardley / Borg)
Wednesday, February 29, 7 p.m. CT, Houston vs. Montreal Impact
(MLSsoccer.com – Yardley / Borg)
MLS Opener: Sunday, March 11, 6 p.m. CT, Houston at Chivas USA
(The Home Depot Center)
MLS Home Opener: Saturday, May 12, 3:30 p.m. CT, Houston vs. D.C. United
(BBVA Compass Stadium)

What Dynamo questions do you want answered at the Disney tournament? Where do you expect them to finish in the Eastern Conference?

1 comment:

  1. Yardley, We will miss you down here in Houston! That was a nice write-up on the team. The one burning question; and quite frankly I think the key to success, is who will play down the right side. With Clark filling in for Brad and Cruz moving on, it should be interesting to see how they fill that spot. The fall back is Watson, I am just not sure he has the crossing or the defensive ability to be the everyday guy.