A team that has appeared in the last two MLS Cup finals faces danger of not even making the 10-team playoff field in 2013. The Houston Dynamo is sixth at the moment, although armed with the advantage of a game in hand on most clubs higher in the Eastern Conference standings.
That added opportunity for matches will not matter, however, if Kinnear’s team cannot fix the problems that have risen through the summer, primarily the lack of scoring from forwards and some atypical leakiness in the back.
The simmering issues came to boil in last weekend’s 5-0 loss in Montreal, the worst loss in club history, and these problems are exacerbated by the schedule; Houston is in the middle of its busiest stretch of 2013. Try this for a brutal schedule: Seven matches over 23 days, with six plane trips in between.
And it’s not like Houston is training – when they get to train, that is – in some cool climate. Houston’s perennial sultry summers can have a debilitating effect if not carefully and dutifully managed.
All of which brings us to Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Panama’s Árabe Unido. With last week’s CCL draw on the road, the Dynamo has a great chance tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium, able to gain great positioning in the reach for next year’s CCL elimination rounds. Kickoff at 8 p.m. ET is on Fox Sports 1.
With a match coming up this weekend in Chicago, against one of the clubs scrapping with the Dynamo for a playoff spot, Kinnear probably doesn’t have a choice but to line up several reservists.
Expect something similar to last week’s lineup as the Dynamo drew with W Connection down in Trinidad; First-choice men such as Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe, Adam Moffat, Giles Barnes, Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Will Bruin were all on the bench to start that one. (Ricardo Clark, now injured, was also missing.)
Remember, passionate MLS supporters want teams from our part of the world to rise in Champions League, some believing the league will take a giant leap forward once an MLS teams claims the regional trophy. That may or may not be true.
But this is definitely true: Major League Soccer clubs and coaches are judged primarily on two things. First, did they make the playoffs? Second, how far did they go in the playoffs?
That’s it. Idealism where CCL is concerned is grand and all, but the reality is that league play dominates the narrative for an MLS club.
That’s why the Dynamo reservists will most likely be on the spot tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium.