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2016 Western Conference Preview Houston Dynamo

Whether you like or hate the cream-sicle jersey'ed Dynamo, they were a formidible adversary for the Rapids in 2015, going 1-1-1 against us and knocking us out of the US Open Cup. What will 2016 hold for the most orange team in MLS?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Dynamo

2015 Record:

11-9-14 (W-T-L), 42 points, 8th place in Western Conference

2015 Goals For:

42, 17th in MLS.

2015 Goals Against:

49, 15th in MLS.

2015 Key Statistic:

Look at that KP stat - Key Passes. That's a pass that results in a shot, assist, or goal. Houston are losing one of the best passers in MLS to SKC in Brad Davis, and replacing him... with one of the passers in MLS in Christian Maidana. That's interesting.

Key Additions:

Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger, Jalil Anibaba, Christian Lucatero (HG)

Key Subtractions:

Brad Davis, Kofi Sarkodie, Luis Garrido

What they have going for them:

The Dynamo are gifted with three talented strikers in Erick ‘Cubo' Torres, Giles Barnes, and Will Bruin. Tyler Deric emerged in 2015 to be a quality MLS GK. Manager Owen Coyle comes off a first ‘adjustment' year and perhaps can start to really understand his team this year. The addition of Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger should help improve the midfield attack. And USMNT Left Back DeMarcus Beasley showed little sign of slowing down and really helped on the attack for Houston. Expect that to continue, even at age 33.

What's Troubling?

Well, a lot actually. The first question is: did this team do enough in the offseason? It really doesn't look like it. Brad Davis' departure makes sense: he was a pinpoint crosser on a team that doesn't employ a big meaty aerial poaching striker, but rather a bunch of foot-first guys. But this team played mostly a 4-4-1-1 in 2015, and the midfielders they rolled out were a mix of old (Davis, Ricardo Clark), or one-dimensional (Nathan Sturgis, Luis Garrido, Alex Lopez).

Young players like Leonel Miranda and Rasheed Olabiyi played significant minutes there in 2015, and they and young Homegrown Christian Lucatero will need to emerge in 2016 as MLS-caliber players if this team is going to compete. Cristian Maidana is a good player, but he's not the sort-of big-time DP that can really fix what's wrong with this team.
Moreover, this team played their central midfielders as box-to-box guys in 2015, and they don't have a single defensively minded and proven midfielder on the squad now. They may be expecting too much from that backline.

Then, there's Cubo Torres. After a massive year for Chivas USA in 2014, he had a weird 2015: a DUI, lots of time on the bench for Chivas Guadalajara, a transfer to Houston, and multiple games where he looked like he was sleepwalking. He may be dealt by the time you read this, but if he isn't, he needs to get it together fast. Cubo is pretty much useless outside of the opponents 18 yard box. If he can't get his head into scoring... well then he's pretty much useless inside the 18 yard box too.

The defense didn't get much of an upgrade: Jalil Anibaba's ok, but I think Brian Horst and Raul Rodriguez are gonna hold down the backline again, after having a pretty mediocre year in 2015.

Finally, Boniek Garcia found himself moved from right mid to right back at the end of last year. If he can play that position, and Sheanon Williams can emerge to spell DeMarcus this year, they'll be ok.

2015 Forecast:

7th or 8th place in the Western Conference.

In short, I'm guessing this team is going to try to score a lot of goals while certainly conceding a lot of goals. So they'll be fun to watch. But if they can't get the scoring part right, this team could be the odds-on favorite for worst team in the league.