The MLS Player's Association released their list of pending MLS free agents on Wednesday, July 20th. Two Houston players were on that list in Darwin Ceren and Daniel Steres. To qualify for free agency, a player must be at least 24 years old and have 5 years of experience in MLS, plus be out of contract. Six others were also highlighted as Dynamo players with a club option.
Ceren, a 32 year old defensive midfielder, is in his 5th season with Houston where he has 3 career goals across 100 career appearances (65 career starts). This season Ceren has played 818 minutes, although he has yet to score or have an assist. He's played in 18 matches, with 9 starts. He is completing 87.2% of his passes, has played 36 accurate long balls, and has made 14 interceptions. Ceren is making $190,000 this year according to the MLSPA's list of salaries.
Steres, a 31 year old defender, is in his 1st season in Houston after the Dynamo acquired him in a trade this past offseason from the LA Galaxy (where he had spent the previous 7 seasons). For the Dynamo this year, he has played 770 minutes (across 8 starts and 3 sub appearances). He is completing 92.4% of his passes, has played 46 accurate long balls, and has 12 interceptions. Houston traded the Galaxy a 3rd round pick in the MLS SuperDraft for Steres in that trade. Steres is earning $450,000 this season.
Houston could re-sign either Ceren or Steres, the players could leave and sign with another MLS team in Free Agency, or they could head to a team in another league on a Free Transfer.
Also announced by the MLSPA was a list of players who have one club option remaining, which means that those players could either have one year of team control left if Houston picks up their option or be free agents if Houston declines their club option. For Houston, that list of players is:Corey Baird, Adam Lundkvist, Fafa Picault, Darwin Quintero, Memo Rodriguez, and Zarek Valentin.
Out of that group, I believe Valentin is the most likely to have his option declined due to age (30) and not being a part of the team's plans this season (just 131 minutes across two appearances this year), but Baird also could be someone to watch. Valentin also has a cap hit of $260,000 this past season. While that isn't an onerous salary, it doesn't fit the level of contribution that Houston has gotten out him this year.
Baird could be someone to watch on whether Houston will decline his option even though Houston made a big investment to bring him in just 12 months ago in a trade with LAFC. However as he has a cap-hit of $440,000 this season, and has underperformed for Houston this year (while struggling recently to find his way into the lineup) he could be someone that Houston decides to move on from. He has yet to score this season (he has 1 assist) in 677 minutes. He is completing 78.6% of his passes.
I think that the other four in that group have a good chance to have their options picked up and remain with the club for another year, but you never know if Houston wants to move on for a certain reason (whether it be age, salary, quality of play, fit, etc.). Two of Houston's top non-DP earners (Quintero and Picault) are among those with an option with cap-hits of $600,000 for both of them, however they are two of Houston's best players so I doubt they are in trouble of being cap-casualties.
We won't know for sure what Houston's plans are until after the season, however this will be a big offseason for the Dynamo with decisions to make about these 8 players, among other important ones.