Now that Atlanta and Minnesota United have picked their players from the Expansion Draft, it’s time to take a long, hard look at the Dynamo roster and the work that needs to be done by General Manager Matt Jordan and Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera.
If you haven’t heard, Minnesota picked Collen Warner with their fourth pick. It’s hard to guess whether he’ll be a part of the starting lineup or a bench option since United has almost no one on their roster. As a destroyer for Wade Barrett, he did a pretty good job for Houston but his major short coming was his inability to help with the offense. That’s not inherently a bad thing but with the tactics the team was using it limited his ability to be effective.
Also on the move was Sheanon Williams, who was traded to Vancouver for General Allocation Money, where he will be reunited with Giles Barnes. With the influx of Targeted Allocation Money from the league (a whopping $1.2 million of it), money won’t be an issue in making high-salaried players fit into the cap. Don’t worry, we’ll break down exactly what the heck that all means. Suffice to say Houston picked up some cash. They also freed up the salary for both players and have a ton of space in the cap left.
With these moves, the Dynamo have the following players still on the roster:
Goalkeepers: Tyler Deric, Joe Willis, Calle Brown
Defenders: Jalil Anibaba, Keyner Brown*, Kevin Garcia, Agus
Midfielders: Ricardo Clark, Christian Lucatero, Andrew Wenger, Oscar Garcia, Jose Escalante*, Yair Arboleda*, Eric Alexander, Alex
Striker: Will Bruin, Mauro Manotas, Erick Torres*
*= Loan player whose status will change on January 1 (either in or out)
So what we have here is a mess. The defense is lacking in full backs and center back depth. Jalil can play out wide on either side but proved he was much better in the middle. Kevin did a superb job with the Toros last season but the jump up is considerable and it is an open question if he can play at this level. Brown’s status is likely up to the transfer fee required.
The team is negotiating with DaMarcus Beasley to bring him back but, personally, I wouldn’t put any money on his return. A move to another team, within MLS or out, is much more likely.
Needs at defense: 1 x starting right back, 1 x starting left back, 1 reserve LB, 2 – 3 center backs (1 potential starter)
The midfield is the more difficult one to assess, mostly because it is unclear what tactics Cabrera intends to use. Still, just looking at the team, it is abundantly clear that a playmaker is desperately needed. If the team is planning on spending a ton of money, it should be on this position. Whether that is out wide or centrally, it must be done. Using the ton of TAM on the other position is an obvious choice as well. That will increase the potency of the attack considerably and put the team on a more even keel.
Imagine if the team could find a Piatti and the front three in a 4-2-3-1 looked like this:
That would provide Mauro with much more service, giving him more chances to put his shots away. The defensive side of things is pretty good with Clark, Alexander and Alex all capable of playing there. Jordan could do with grabbing a replacement for Warner, however, to provide tactical flexibility. All that’d be left after that would be a winger on either flank. Garcia will be busy with Honduras and having someone to take his place is prudent. Left-footed players are rare but hunting one down should be on the shopping list as well.
Needs in midfield: 1 x starting attacking midfielder, 1 x starting left winger, 1 x reserve defensive midfielder, 2 x reserve wingers (one for each side)
The striker pool is entirely up to where Cabrera feels Erick Torres fits into the equation. Cruz Azul has already made it clear that he will not be staying with them once his loan deal is up. As the team’s most expensive signing, it behooves the Dynamo to figure out what the heck they are going to do with him. Whether that means moving him on to recoup some of their investment or giving him a chance with the last coach to get anything out of him, he can’t sit on the bench and continue to rot.
If, somehow, Jordan and company find someone to take him, they’ll have freed up a ton of salary cap space and most importantly, a Designated Player spot.
The other big part of the puzzle is Will Bruin. It’s no secret that, at best, he has been misused over the past couple of years. At worst his form has fallen completely off the cliff and hit rock bottom. In either case, it’s best for all if they part ways. Rumors out of Minnesota indicate they are interested, which is why he was protected in the Expansion Draft. Whatever they can get from them would likely be worth it. His salary is huge, especially compared against his output of late.
If both players are moved on, that means a starting striker and a reserve option are needed. Or some combination of both if one or the other leaves. Mauro has a great future ahead of him but leaving the striker position entirely in his hands, or feet rather, is asking a lot of a young player.
Briefly on GAM:
General Allocation Money is used by teams to lower the cap cost of players under the max payroll of $480,625.
For example, Will Bruin was signed to a new contract with a guaranteed salary of $311,666.67. Houston could use GAM to lower the cap hit to, say, $200,000, allowing them to sign a player not unlike Keyner Brown ($108,000).
It’s slightly more complex than that, but that’s the general idea.
Briefly on TAM:
Targeted Allocation Money is used by teams for players over the max payroll but under $1,000,000.
DaMarcus Beasley made $813,333.33 and counted as a DP. If the Dynamo wanted, they could apply $400,000 in TAM and free up the DP slot and nearly $80,000 in salary space. That’d be enough to bring in a player like David Horst ($91,343.75) for next to nothing.
Again, there are some subtleties of the rules but this should help fans roster build at home.
Players Union salary info can be found here. Do take those numbers with a grain of salt, however.
For those playing along at home, without any cash applied to the cap, Houston’s cap hits are at least $2,958,374.55 (which is of course not true due to roster rules but that’s another article. Stay tuned.)