We’ve heard and read plenty about what a beautiful, intimate stadium the Houston Dynamo now have for themselves — but how good is the team that’s playing there? As evidenced in their 0-0 draw with the mediocre Portland Timbers in their last home match, the Dynamo have lost considerable fire and star power since their last MLS championship in 2007, and mostly failed to replace it.
With the LA Galaxy set to make their first visit to BBVA Compass Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. Saturday match, Houston will get a reminder of what true star power looks like. (Landon Donovan won't be in the building, but David Beckham will). But where is the Dynamo's star?
To give themselves the best shot at being a team that lives up to its stadium, the Dynamo badly needs to add some scoring punch, preferably in the form of their first Designated Player.
Stuart Holden departed for the EPL, where he was named Bolton’s Player of the Year for 2011, despite missing half the season with injury. Midfielder Dwayne De Rosario didn’t travel as far, but he continues to be a star. After a series of trades he wound up at D.C. United, and all he did there last year was win league MVP.
Houston hasn’t added much punch the last few years. The Dynamo still have Brian Ching, who is, for now at least, floundering in front of the goal. And he’s not alone. Against D.C. United in the home opener, the Dynamo had plenty of point-blank chances that should’ve put the game away. Still except for Brad Davis, who scored on a goal that was anything but point blank, they came away empty, settling for a 1-0 win.
Going into this game against the Galaxy that remains the only goal that the Dynamo have scored in their new stadium so far.
For offense, the team can count on Davis, a finalist for last year’s MVP award, and to a still uncertain extent on youngish Will Bruin. Together the pair have accounted for seven of the Dynamo’s paltry 10 goals. To be clear, that’s 10 goals in 10 games.
The defense is fine, despite the very occasional lapse (such as the 3-2 away loss to D.C. United earlier this season). Tally Hall is a very worthy successor to the great Pat Onstad in goal, and the back line should be fine with Geoff Cameron, who's good enough to be named to the United States national team Friday.
But is that combination good enough to allow the Dynamo (3-3-4) to make the kind of improbable low-scoring run that last year lifted them from the middle of the standings to the league title game? Probably not, though I would never rule out a Dominic Kinnear coached team. The tough minded Kinnear is by far the team’s greatest asset.
The team is making far more money these days. They ought to invest some of it.
To give themselves the best shot at being a team that lives up to its stadium, the Dynamo badly needs to add some scoring punch, preferably in the form of their first Designated Player — a player not subject to the league’s rather restrictive salary cap. Remember that in last year’s championship game, Los Angeles had three DPs, including Beckham, each of whom made at least as much as the entire Dynamo team combined.
I wish now that I had never read the rumors that had Mexican international Giovani dos Santos coming to Houston as a DP. They always sounded too good to be true, but after seeing him score this goal inside the box against the U.S. in 2011’s Gold Cup, I let the dream carry me away.
The Dynamo have valid reasons — or excuses, if you prefer — for their failure to score in their last home match. They were playing their third game in six days against a team on nine days rest in Portland. (Never mind that that team is second to last in the Western Conference.)
And in fact Houston had some good chances, especially late in the game, but Portland’s keeper Troy Perkins saved the Timbers bacon with a series of brilliant stops. That’s the way the game goes. But the simple truth remains — if not for Brad Davis’s highlight reel strike against D.C. United, the team would still be looking for its first home goal Saturday.
The Dynamo has the city’s attention like never before. But they need to make more of the buzz attach to the team itself, and not the stadium alone. The team is making far more money these days. They ought to invest some of it.
In a star.