Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: Houston Dynamo

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(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)

For a team that finished in the middle of their conference last season, the Houston Dynamo carry surprisingly few questions into their 2013 campaign.

That’s because they’re not a fifth-place caliber team. Two years in a row, Dominic Kinnear has guided his team to an MLS Cup final, and while Sporting has claimed two conference titles in that time, there’s little doubt which team are currently kings in the East.

Bringing back the same core that clicked during last year’s playoffs, Houston should be expected to better their 2012 regular season finish. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some doubt.

  • Is the defense for real?

Houston lost Geoff Cameron and didn’t miss a beat. They made a change at right back mid-stream and never lost their edge. As with most Kinnear teams, Houston’s defense served as the bedrock for the coach’s approach.

That’s no guarantee everything will unfold the same this spring. Bobby Boswell may have has his best MLS season in 2012. Will that continue into 2013? Will Jermaine Taylor resume the same high level he carried through his time in Cameron’s spot? And how will Kofie Sarkodie respond to his first March as Houston’s first choice right back?

Expect all those questions to come back positive. At not point during last year’s run did the you watch this back four and think “this has to be a fluke.” But sample sizes being what they are, it’s worth watching to make sure our initial perceptions coincide with the long-term reality. Preseason will give us our first hints.

  • Can Rico play a more attacking part?

Ricardo Clark’s return from Germany allowed Kinnear to switch from the 4-4-3 he used through summer to his preferred 4-4-2. With Clark and Adam Moffat in the middle, the Dynamo had a tandem that could both destroy play and clean up the second balls.

This year, however, Ricardo Clark may need to expand his game. Both he and Dominic Kinnear had hoped he’d play a more attacking role when he came into the starting XI, but his presence rarely translated into something going forward.

Conceivably, Houston could be fine if Clark plays the same way he did down the stretch in 2013, but the Dynamo would be much more balanced (and ultimately, dangerous) if they didn’t have to rely solely on Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia. Preseason’s the perfect time for Clark to start taking some chances.

  • How does Houston reach the next level?

Making finals is nice and losing to the Galaxy is understandable, but at some point it’s going to get old. And there’s always going to be a talented team at the end of any championship road.

If Houston’s going to reclaim an MLS crowd, they need something else. Perhaps that’s Clark finding some creativity. Maybe it’s Will Bruin becoming an All-Star. Boniek Garcia may become one of the league’s elite players. Perhaps Tally Hall becomes MLS’s Petr Cech. If so, we may start to see it in preseason.

Any of these things may prove enough to give Houston that one missing quality they need to win (instead of merely compete in) their last game.

MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:

Up Next: LA Galaxy

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are back after a frantic Week 5 of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

With a bevvy of fine individual displays after the international break, we have plenty of top talents to choose from.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Even
  2. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool – New entry
  3. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  4. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth) – New entry
  5. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham) – New entry
  6. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 4
  7. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – Down 4
  8. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Down 2
  9. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  10. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Up 5
  11. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
  12. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – Even
  13. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Even
  14. James Milner (Liverpool) – New entry
  15. Glenn Murray (Brighton) – Up 4
  16. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) – New entry
  17. Willian (Chelsea) – New entry
  18. David De Gea (Man United ) – New entry
  19. Josh King (Bournemouth) – New entry
  20. Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham) – New entry

Total transfer spending of top teams revealed

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It’s not about how much you spend, it’s about what you spend it on, right?

Well, sort of.

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How much have the top clubs on the planet spent to assemble their superstar squads?  In short, a ton. But the deeper analysis shows a clear trend: Premier League clubs are dominating the money spent in the transfer market to assemble their rosters.

The guys over at the International Centre for Sports Studies – CIES Football Observatory, have calculated the biggest spenders on the planet in terms of purchasing their current squads, and eight of the top 20 are from the PL with seven of the top 11 from England’s top-flight.

Take a look at the list below as four of the top six clubs come from England.

Manchester City at the top of the tree having spent $1.14 billion to assemble their current squad, PSG are in second with a spend of $920 million, while Manchester United sit in third after spending $918 million. Liverpool after fourth after dishing out $823 million to put together their current roster, Barcelona have spent $807 million and Chelsea sit sixth after spending $786 million.

Focusing on the Premier League specifically, you can see how much each of the current 20 teams have spent to assemble their squads.

Biggest takeaways: Southampton and West Ham should be doing a lot better, while Bournemouth, Watford and Wolves are punching well above their weight.

FIFA not happy with La Liga’s USA plans

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President of FIFA Gianni Infantino doesn’t seem impressed with La Liga’s plans to play a regular-season game in Miami in January, 2019.

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Barcelona, Girona and La Liga have applied to the Spanish Football Federation to move their match on Jan. 26, 2019 from Girona’s home stadium to Miami, Florida in a bid to attract new fans.

It would be the first-ever La Liga game played overseas, but Infantino isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I think I would prefer to see a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S,” Infantino said in a statement to ESPN. “In football, the general principle is that you play a ‘home’ match at ‘home’, and not in a foreign country. There are procedures in place for these things, so we will wait to receive anything official and then we’ll look into it. There are rules, regulations, that everyone complies with. In particular, such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and FIFA should also express a view on the matter, not least since it would have implications for football at global level as well.”

With FIFA having to approve the move, is that the end of this?

Probably not, but it is clear that this game would cause plenty of problems as the Spanish players’ union have already expressed serious concerns about moving games to the U.S. and elsewhere to try and grow their global brand.

The head of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has hit out at Infantino about his comments and clearly wants to game to go ahead. Yet U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF, the Spanish Football Federation and FIFA would all have to give it the thumbs up.

“I will remind the President of,  that in the , 3 teams of Canada participate, and he T is the current champion, and also in Canada there is another professional league,” Tebas said.

I see where Tebas is coming from but come on, comparing teams from Spain to Canada  playing games in the USA is a huge stretch. It appears La Liga remains desperate for this idea to work but there’s certainly a lot of schmoozing that needs to be done in the coming months to make a Spanish top-flight game in Miami a reality.

Ivan Gazidis leaves Arsenal for AC Milan

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One of the worst kept secrets in soccer is out: Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis has left the club to join AC Milan.

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Gazidis, 54, will join the Italian giants on December 1, with Arsenal promoting Raul Sanllehi from head of football relations to head of football and Vinai Venkatesham, currently their chief commercial officer, now their managing director.

The former MLS deputy commissioner has been the CEO at Arsenal for the past 10 years, overseeing their move to the Emirates Stadium and trying to help Arsene Wenger bring the glory days back for the Gunners.

With Wenger out over the summer and Gazidis appointing Unai Emery as their new manager, the Englishman was thought to be instrumental in the rebuild of the club. Instead, he’s walked away to join AC Milan.

“For the last 10 years I have been privileged to dedicate myself to this great club. Arsenal is entering a new chapter and I have done everything I can to ensure that it is strongly placed to take on that challenge,” Gazidis said. “This includes world-class facilities and outstanding leaders in every sector who carry the values of the club, including, of course, Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham in whom I have enormous faith.”

There has been plenty of criticism of Gazidis and Arsenal’s majority owner, Stan Kroenke, as many fans of the Gunners believe they are purely focused on profit off the pitch rather than building a winning team on it.

Gazidis went on to state that although leaving Arsenal was the toughest decision of his life, he believes he can help AC Milan return to past glories.

“Although it is very hard to do – the hardest decision of my life – I believe that, after 10 years, it is the right time for me to step aside to allow new leadership, energy and ideas to take the club forward into this exciting new era. I believe in the positive force of change, both for me and for the club. While this is the most difficult and challenging course for me, I am excited to see what the future holds for this great club.

“After so many years at Major League Soccer and Arsenal, I am now looking forward to joining one of the world’s other great clubs, AC Milan, and working to restore it to its rightful place in football. Until then, I will continue to devote absolutely all my energy until my last day to ensure an orderly transition for the benefit of Arsenal Football Club.”

Why has Gazidis left now? One of the main reasons could be that Kroenke recently upped his stake in the club after Alisher Usmanov sold his shares, and perhaps Gazidis was being moved on as they try to freshen things up throughout the club.

That said, Arsenal and Gazidis have acknowledged the fact that the latter decided to leave the club so it seems like it was his decision.