FM15: 2017 Houston Dynamo back in the playoffs – finally

Orange in the Oven is playing out an alternative reality managing the Houston Dynamo using the in-depth management simulation, Football Manager 15. For the inaugural season of 2014, we are putting up multiple posts so people can get a hang of the game. Thereafter, we will update only 1-2 times per season. The first post can be found here.

After narrowly missing out on the playoffs for two consecutive seasons as we rebuild the team, this is the season that we have to make it back. More changes are afoot first, however. On the unwanted changes front, Lee Seok-hyun completes his move to Ulsan Hyundai on a free transfer. His departure is a big loss.

We release several players who we have opted not to re-sign, including: Andrew Driver, Chris Wingert and some of our earlier draft picks.

The center back pairing last season of AJ Cochran and Sebastien Ibeagha was okay, but Cochran has not developed the way we had hoped he might. He is too slow and his positioning is not great. Moreover, he has a tendency to collect yellow and red cards. We need to plug a class player into the back line, and to do that we target Matt Hedges, Chris Schuler and Ike Opara.

It quickly becomes clear that Hedges and Opara are unattainable. Orlando City is willing to talk about Schuler, however, and we finally pull off a deal for our 2nd round draft pick this year and our 1st round draft pick next year. We have a lot of youth in the side so we are not too concerned about draft picks.

We also ship an international slot to Columbus for 2 years for allocation money. We sign 3 players from the Academy: Matt Jarvis (GK), Ricky Vidal (right sided attacking midfielder), and Miguel Lopez (right back). Nobody of note is picked up in the college draft.

Lastly, Alex Lopez is in his final contract year and we know we will be unable to sign him to a new contract plus we need to clear out some cap space. The player proves difficult to sell, however. Ultimately, we manage to ship him off to Apollon Limassol in Cyprus.

With Lee Seok-hyun gone, we no longer have the treqartista who made our 4-3-1-2 work so well last year. Moreover, we want to get better use out of our young Argentinian right winger Juan Vieyra. At the same time, we like the two striker system with Diogo Acosta and a rotation of our teenage Korean striker Kim Jae-hwan and our young South African, Leonard Ntombela. Two strikers also gives us the chance to work Academy product Moises Garza into the mix after he spent last season on loan at Pittsburgh.

In the end, we opt to go with a system that resembles a 4-2-4 with two strikers, two wide advanced midfielders and two central midfielders. The starting front pair will be Acosta and Kim. On the right, we will have Vieyra. On the left, Brad Davis has seen better days and will provide depth off the bench. Lee Nguyen gets the starting spot.

The preferred central midfield pairing will be Sacha Kljestan and Marky Delgado, who has developed nicely. Our first ever 1st round draft pick, Mafika Khumalo, will see plenty of playing time as he continues to get better. Ricardo Clark is aging but should be good for depth.

The back line will see Kofi Sarkodie on the right side as always. Schuler and Ibeagha man the middle and Glen Massey will get the chance to make the left back spot his own. The defense will be vulnerable under this system, however we are counting on Schuler to lift the back 4 and on the front 4 to create a lot of goals.

We get off to a fantastic start, winning 6 of our first 8 matches with Acosta scoring for fun as the system results in a lot of opportunities for him. Our defense is holding up well and we are conceding just over 1 goal per game. Then, the wheels fall off and we concede 18 goals over a 5 game stretch losing 4 and drawing 1.

Since the start of the season, it has been clear that Massey is our weak point. He is not ready to be a full-time starter yet. We have had our scouts working overtime to find us a replacement. Finally, in early May we complete a deal for Welsh defender Kieron Freeman from Derby County for $77k. He signs a DP deal and gives us added flexibility by virtue of the fact that he can play both right and left back.

As Freeman settles, the defense begins to play better and results begin to go our way again. We are generally winning at home and taking points here and there on the road.

In July, we expand our Asia pipeline to Japan and bring in Yuki Nakagawa on loan from Reysol with an option to buy. He can play both the left and right wing and will give us depth. Around the same time, Brad Davis informs us he wants to try his hand in another league before he retires. We shop him, but his salary expectations are out of whack with his skills at this point in his career. Finally in September we manage to place him in Turkey with Mersin I.Y and say goodbye with a heavy heart.

We have an excellent September and October, winning 6 of 8 to close the season and eliminate the suspense of the past two seasons. We chase Los Angeles hard for 2nd place, but ultimately end up in 3rd on 59 points. FC Dallas wins the Supporter’s Shield with 66 points, Luis Garrido playing a big role in their run. In the end, our system leaked a similar number of goals as the previous 3 seasons, but we scored a lot more.

Credit: Football Manager 15

The Galaxy make for a familiar opponent in the playoffs. In the 1st leg we have our chances as the Galaxy have a player sent off in the 21st minute. Acosta has a phenomenal game with a hat trick. Our defense struggles to cope with the pace of Gyasi Zardes, though, and his brace combined with a Steven Evans goal confines us to a 3-3 draw.

In the 2nd leg we have to chase the game which leaves us exposed to counter-attacks. We play well, but lose 4-2 and are knocked out of the playoffs. The MLS Cup Final sees FC Dallas hosting a very strong NYCFC side. Much to our delight, NYCFC wins 1-0.

A lot of players have very good seasons for us, but the best falls to Acosta who sees a lot more chances and converts them in bundles. He shatters the league goals record by being the first man to score 30. He adds 8 assists and wins Fan’s Player of the Year for the 3rd consecutive season.

The Korean teenager, Kim Jae-hwan, shows a ton of promise with 11 goals and 8 assists. Ntombela chips in 9 goals and 10 assists. Academy product Garza has a great first season with the team scoring 8 with 3 assists.

Vieyra is excellent on the right with 5 goals and 7 assists and begins to draw a lot of transfer interest. Nguyen is ever the creator with 5 goals and 14 assists.

Post-season Awards:

Keeper of the Year: Damian Martinez (FC Dallas)

Defender of the Year: Chiquinho (FC Dallas)

MLS Best XI: GK: Martinez (FC Dallas); Def: Doniel Henry (NYCFC), Shane O’Neill (Colorado), Jose Gonçalves (FC Dallas); Mid: Luis Gil (NYCFC), Diego Valeri (Portland), Frank Lampard (NYCFC), Gyasi Zardes (LAG), Luis Silva (NYCFC); Fwd: Diogo Acosta (Houston Dynamo), Paulo Victor (Vancouver)

Coach of the Year: Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas)

Goal of the Year: Paulo Victor (Vancouver) vs. Real Salt Lake

Golden Boot: Diogo Acosta (Houston) – 30 goals

Newcomer of the Year: Pablo Mascarenas (FC Dallas)

Rookie of the Year: Gabriel Zazueta (Chicago)

MVP: Paulo Victor (Vancouver) – Diogo Acosta finished 2nd in the voting

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