After 34 games the Houston Dynamo found themselves sitting pretty in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference of MLS. It's fair to say that Dynamo fans aren't sure whether to hug the players for a job well done or Don Garber for moving Houston in to the East, at least for this season.
When the Dynamo's 2011 campaign began, the team was in a state of rebuilding ... but it wasn't. There had been a multitude of roster changes with some familiar faces like Pat Onstad gone and a variety of unknown young faces like Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie ... but they weren't rebuilding. By the end of the summer, some guy named Sergio Koke had signed, showed up out of shape and quit the team, Carlo Costly and Luiz Camargo had joined on loan to fill in gaps in the lineup ... but they weren't rebuilding. Until Sept. 24, this team hadn't won a road game all season ... but they weren't rebuilding. With less than two weeks to go in the season, the Dynamo were in the playoffs, just barely and by the final whistle last weekend they were in second place in the East ... but they still weren't rebuilding ... but they were.
Despite the roller-coaster nature of the season, the team resolutely moved forward and improved as the games went back. Led by a MVP caliber season from midfielder Brad Davis and a Goalkeeper of the Year worthy season from Tally Hall, the Dynamo found success through patience as Dominic Kinnear tinkered with the lineup and worked feverishly to find the necessary parts through trade or transfer to give his team a chance to win. In fact, lost in the turmoil and frustration felt by fans and the media at times, this might be one of Kinnear's best coaching jobs.
You see, the crazy thing about the Dynamo this season is the strange balancing act between knowing they could compete for a playoff spot in a weakened Eastern Conference and realizing that it was time to begin developing the future of the team. While the late season surge and trip to the playoffs is ultimately beneficial to a team preparing to open a new downtown stadium, the rebuilding had to take a bit of a back seat, and that's all right really. Several key young players were a part of the Dynamo's strange success in 2011; the franchise pulled off a great trade (getting Adam Moffat from Portland) after a series of moves in past years that had left fans shaking their heads in confusion; and after missing the postseason in 2010, the Dynamo are back where they believe they and their fans believe they belong. Oh and they weren't rebuilding ... but they were.