Adam Moffat was a huge piece of Houston’s personnel puzzle over the last two years as Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo made its way into consecutive MLS Cup finals. Moffat isn’t the best of MLS midfield distributors, but his hard edge and desire was a good fit for Houston’s grinding style, and he sure delivered a few clutch goals courtesy of that well above average long-range shooting.
So something looked askew when Moffat (pictured, along with former Dynamo teammate Ricardo Clark) was traded to Seattle right at last week’s MLS roster deadline for reservist Servando Carrasco and a second-round draft pick. Carrasco is a versatile, third-year midfielder but perhaps not an MLS starter. (Not yet, anyway. Maybe he will be now that he’s not stuck behind the league’s top ball-winning midfielder, Osvaldo Alonso, but we’ll have to see.)
The Dynamo’s midfield was already strong, one of Major League Soccer deepest; it’s the lack of a striker this is currently undermining Houston’s playoff chances. Will Bruin simply is not having a good year, Cam Weaver can’t finish reliably (he missed a couple of absolute golden opportunities last week in Philadelphia, including one with a wide-open goal to shoot at), Omar Cummings’ injury recovery just hasn’t been fruitful to this point and the old Dynamo warrior of a striker Brian Ching is now a limited, role player off the bench.
It would have made more sense if Carrasco was a forward, someone to give Kinnear one more option closer to goal. But Carrasco’s best position is the very same one Moffat played, holding midfielder.
So Seattle got the better part of this trade in the short term. Moffat, a tough Scotsman full of desire, provides a little more cover in the event of injury to Alonso, probably the most indispensable man to the Sounders’ Supporters Shield and MLS Cup chances. He can be what the increasingly immobile Shalrie Joseph just has not been, an experienced, holding midfielder who keeps the dropoff from being egregious if Alonso has to take a seat.
Moffat can also play alongside Alonso if Sounders manager Sigi Schmid wants to reconfigure his midfield according to the situation, something that happens with some regularity around CenturyLink anyway. In that scenario, the versatile Brad Evans would play elsewhere – which, of course, he can.
So why would Houston agree to this? There is about $100,000 of salary cap relief for Houston, as the more experience (and quite popular) Moffat makes about $160,000. And Carrasco is four years older. Otherwise, it must indicate a couple of things.
First, Dynamo coaches have a lot of faith in second year man Warren Creavalle. Versatile enough to play along the back line or as a holding midfielder, he stands to gather up even more minutes now (having already started 11 games this year for Houston.)
Or Houston officials believe Carrasco has more upside; he is already a better passer than Moffat, so there’s that. But will Carrasco get more minutes in Houston? Because while he’s no longer sitting behind Alonso, he’s behind the rangy, effective Ricardo Clark. This also means more of Clark back into his more natural spot, further back in the midfield. That will allow Kinnear to deploy someone more technical, with more attacking craftsmanship into the playmaking areas.
And maybe that’s the point. Guys like Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Andrew Driver give the Dynamo plenty of offensive push along the flanks, but the middle channels don’t always do enough to create. A little better passing, a little more offensive craft from the midfield and maybe one of those strikers will finally find his scoring shoes.