KANSAS CITY, KS - NOVEMBER 06: Members of the Houston Dynamo celebrate their victory over Sporting Kansas City after the MLS Eastern Conference Championship match at Livestrong Sporting Park on November 06, 2011 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
After winning the Eastern Conference a year ago, the Dynamo have managed to improve an already solid squad.
2011 record (finish): 12-9-12. Eastern Conference Champions.
Key additions: Mac Kandji (F), Colin Folfe (M/F), Brian Ching (F)
Key losses: Danny Cruz (M)
Bold prediction: The Dynamo are a better team in 2012 than they were in 2011, at least on paper. Does that mean they'll win another Eastern Conference championship and take another crack at hoisting their third MLS Cup? You're &!^##@ right it does...OK, maybe not. Such is the nature of MLS that trying to predict season-to-season trends is about as simple as figuring out where the fish are biting. Soccer and fishing in the same team preview...you're welcome.
Biggest fear: Injuries. While there is some depth on the roster, there are some key players that Kinnear can ill afford to lose for more than a couple games. If the likes of Cameron, Moffat, or most importantly Brad Davis, go down for an extended period of the seeason, it could derail things a bit. I still think the Dynamo would be good enough to make the playoffs, but a healthy roster all season could mean another run towards the finals as we open the new stadium.
The one thing we know for sure about the Dynamo this season is that the defense is set. Unlike last year where Dominic Kinnear was forced to juggle starters and try different combinations until he finally was able to move Geoff Cameron back in a central defense roll, he's got set starters and depth. Ashe settled well at left fullback, and while Andre Hainault is a good choice on the right side, he'll be pushed by Kofi Sarkodie who is starting to come in to his own. Inside, Bobby Boswell and Cameron will start with Jermaine Taylor providing coverage.
The Dynamo midfield should be in a good shape as well. Brad Davis is healthy after missing the MLS Cup final, so the only real question is who plays on the right. Colin Clark and Je-Vaughn Watson are the likely candidates, despite the fact Clark is left footed and Watson isn't the most dependable defensive option, basically someone will need to step up. Luiz Camargo and Adam Moffatt will once again anchor the spine of the midfield, which seemed to work just fine down the stretch last season.
Up front, the addition of Colin Rolfe and Mac Kandji gives Kinnear some additional depth, plus Calen Carr should be available for the full season as well. Brian Ching is back after a "complicated" off-season, but the real standout looks to be second-year forward Will Bruin who had an excellent preseason.
So if you want a want bold prediction, this Dynamo team will win the Eastern Conference (regular season), win the Easter Conference Championship. As for the MLS Cup, that's up to the Galaxy again I expect. The key though is scoring goals as this Dynamo team will be defensively stingy. If they can score goals, the sky's the limit for Houston.