After their first proper pre-season match, a 2 – 0 victory over the New England Revolution in Tucson, Arizona, the Houston Dynamo are looking to win back the trust of their fans by not just winning games but playing an entertaining style. Their hope is to reenergize a fan base that has become uninspired.
Instead of passion, there is frustration. Instead of hope, there is doubt.
To get back on top of Major League Soccer, it will take more than just a revamped roster however. As more teams come into the league, with Atlanta and Minnesota United joining this season, it will become increasingly more difficult to qualify for the playoffs. Even when the number of playoff teams increases (and don’t kid yourself, it will), the difficulty will only increase. Why? Because most of the expansion ownership groups are investing huge amounts of money not only on the team and the stadium, but also into their youth academies, scouting networks and coaching staff.
In order to stay relevant, the Dynamo will have to either be much more intelligent in how they spend limited resources or increase the money available to all branches of the team.
But none of that is really new.
This article is about how much work is needed for the Dynamo to not only win back the fans but also climb back onto the top of the league.
For the roster, a lot of the work has been done with the massive roster turnover during the winter. There’s still plenty of movement that could be done but this is certainly a start. The next pair of transfer windows will likely feature more fine tuning as players become available or play themselves off the roster. While many of the new signings will be gone for this summer’s Gold Cup, there should be enough depth to keep the team competitive, which brings us to the biggest trust part of the roster: Erick Torres.
It’s been two years since the Dynamo acquired the talented Mexican striker and he’s barely gotten any time with the team and contributed nothing on the field. The reasons are long and well documented but now it is time for Wilmer Cabrera to trust his former Chivas USA standout. This doesn’t mean anyone thinks Torres should be handed a starting spot. What we are saying is that if Torres isn’t a starter, he should be the first offensive sub off the bench. He’s started pre-season in shape and scoring goals.
No matter how management feels about Torres, it is in their best interest to give him plenty of minutes. If they wish to move him on, the only way they’ll hope to get a good price (or the equivalent thereof in MLS assets) is for him to show he can still score goals somewhat similar to this Chivas USA days. If they wish to hold on to Torres, they need to play him so he can help win games and, hopefully, trophies. Otherwise it’s a waste of money which is entirely uncharacteristic for this ownership group.
Speaking of waste of money, we have to talk about the Academy. They recently celebrated their 10th birthday and have produced only one MLS caliber player. Sort of. While Tyler Deric is unquestionably from the area and did play with the Academy, he spent the bulk of his development with other clubs. Granted, back in those days, the rules around homegrown signings were changing daily (it seemed) so fair is fair. Ever since they’ve signed a slew of players and for a variety of reasons none have worked. Everything from the mundane to the ridiculous has been the downfall of young Texans.
While more funds for the Academy would always be welcome, what is more important is trust. Cabrera and his coaching staff have to trust their Academy coaching staff and the players produced. For 10 years the team has been almost completely unwilling to give playing time to youngsters while other clubs have started to become very successful with their youth (including, yes, archrival Dallas to name just one). If the Dynamo aren’t going to go after high-priced talent (a la LA or Seattle) and won’t trust their Academy (a la Dallas or Red Bulls) then where will the talent come from to win championships?
There is talent currently available either on the senior roster or with the Toros. Now it is up to Cabrera to get the most available out of talent he is very familiar with.
Speaking of Academy, the Dynamo have changed things up a bit by creating a partnership for a PDL team, coached by the Academy Director James Clarkson. They’ve also partnered up with local youth sides Texas Rush and Space City FC for player identification. It’s great, if not long overdue.
Hopefully that will pay dividends sooner than later.
What else do the Dynamo need to do to earn back the trust of their fans?
While BBVA Compass Stadium is as awesome and beautiful as ever, the service at the concession stands has been poor. A major upgrade will hopefully fix that while their ticketing office has been shook up with new management.
What does all of this mean, though?
It means that ownership and senior management have heard the complaints and have started to take measures to fix them. Does that mean fans should instantly forgive and forget and jump on board? No, of course not. It means that, as in any relationship, the Dynamo have realized their errors and are working to fix them. Fans should be willing to give them time to prove that they have been heard and things can get better. Trust is a two-way street and it is incumbent on fans to show a little as the Dynamo continue their long rebuilding process across the entire organization.