With 11 games left to the season, are the Houston Dynamo looking to next season already? The answer is yes although you will not here a player, coach or anyone in the organization admit as such until they have been mathematically eliminated as it should be.
Mathematically eliminated are the two words, you hear whenever someone associated with El Naranja is asked about the playoffs. The tem though is not playing like a playoff contender. After Saturday night's loss, they sit six points off the playoff line in the Western Conference.
Houston, for all intents and purposes, threw in the towel with the 6-0 loss. It's true that anything can happen in sports but the Dynamo will have to win five of the remaining matches, draw, three and lose three at the very least. It's probably not happening. They face three winning teams at home and two on the road so if they do have a chance, it will have to be beating the likes of Vancouver, Colorado and Seattle at home and N.E. Revolution and Sporting Kansas City on the road.
Over the last few weeks, head coach Paulo Nagamura has made the point that the team still needs to find some pieces to get the right core playing regularly together. It's not an excuse but it is a perspective that is not necessarily true. It is this writer's opinion that they have the necessary pieces.
Let's start with the front line. You have Sebastian Ferreria who has done pretty well in his first season of MLS play as has rookie Thor Uhlfarrson. Add in Darwin Quintero for two out of everything games and you have have a pretty good scoring nucleus.
Moving to the midfield. This is where the game is won and loss on both ends of the pitch. The addition of Hector Herrera is huge however he has only been here a month and a miracle worker he is not. Surrounding him with Memo Rodriguez, Matias Vera and Tyler Pasher gives you a good group. They just need some playing time together.
The backline is solid with Tim Parker, Teenage Hadebe, Zeca, and Adam Lundvkist. It's the fill-ins like Sam Junqua and Ethan Bartlow who need minutes on the pitch to improve their game. They have shown flashes of how good they can be but they need more time and now might be the time to start giving them some.
Goalkeeping is sound with Steve Clark and Michael Nelson however if I am Nagamura which I am not, I think its time to give Nelson the reins and see what he can do in potentially meaningful games. Then there is Xavier Valdez of the Dynamo Dos waiting for his moment. So goaltending is in good hands as the people at Allstate would say.
So what it it Houston needs. The answer appears very simple. They need more playing time together. They need chemistry and continuity. You see it in the better teams that they can't handle like the Philadelphia, Austins, and Seattle's of the world. After the 3-1 loss to Austin FC just about a month ago, Nagamura said as much talking about how their core (Austin FC) has been playing together game in and game out.
What I can say is that once you're in your second year and you've been there 18 months with the same core players, they understand better the way they want to play, they're pretty solid," explained. "We've been with the team six months and trying to implement our style of play. That is the difference."
So Dynamo fans, it's tough to continue to be patient with the club after what's been delivered since 2015 but this group running the club from the front office down is heading in the right direction. Let's see how we look in 12 months.