The two-time MLS Champion Houston Dynamo have lost an incredible amount of talent going into the 2010 season and will be put to the test this season if they wish to continue to be an elite team in MLS.
Stu Holden, a star midfielder in the making for both the Dynamo and the United States National Team, transferred to English Premier League side Bolton.
US International teammate Ricardo Clark transferred to Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga.
Also, captain and veteran defender Wade Barrett retired. Throw in forward and leading goal scorer Brian Ching, who could very well miss time playing with the US team in the World Cup, and the Dynamo look to be in trouble.
But Head Coach Dominic Kinnear has put a system in place over the years and gets players that fit that system, so he will make sure that his guys are prepared for the start of the season and anything else that may come along the way.
Obviously, a lot of the pressure will go on the shoulders of the veteran Ching. Even though he missed 11 games because of injury last season he still led the team with eight goals. Ching is a very good target forward. He does a good job of getting open, collecting the ball, and holding onto it. He is also a very good passer and a talented aerial player.
A lot of buzz this preseason has centered around Geoff Cameron. The defender will move up into a central midfielder role. The 24-year-old has displayed his versatility and scored two goals and notched six assists out of the defense position in 2009.
While Cameron gets the publicity, he will rely on outside midfielder Brad Davis. Davis is an underrated workhorse who continually plays good team ball and contributes at a high rate. Last season Davis was among the league leaders in assists, with eight.
The Dynamo brought in Jamaican international Lovel Palmer to fill in for Clark as the defensive midfielder in the starting lineup. The 25-year-old has played the last 10 years with Harbour View FC of Jamaica’s premier league.
Where the Dynamo really need much more production out of is Designated Player Luis Angel Landin.
With such high expectations, the start to Landin’s time with Houston can only be described as horrendous.
Signed on August 20, Landin played in seven games for the Dynamo, but scored only once. He was also criticized a number of times for being out of shape. Especially with the loss of so much talent and possibly going without Ching for a month, the Dynamo need to get much more return of their investment from Landin.
What carries Houston is their strong defense.
In 2009 they tied for the league lead in fewest goals allowed. Heading that group is 42-year-old goalkeeper Pat Onstad, who returns for his seventh MLS season and is still one of the elite goalies in the league. Last year he posted his third season with a goals against average lower than 1.00 and his sixth with double digits in wins.
At first, the losses of Holden, Clark, and Barrett would seem alarming. But at second glance the team looks to have some quality players that could keep this franchise in competition for the league’s biggest prize.
There will be some bumps in the road as the midfield works itself out, but expect Kinnear to keep this team moving in the right direction as well as keeping them in contention.