It is hard to say the Houston Dynamo stand in any sort of disarray following its shocking playoff loss to the New York Red Bulls. Two straight MLS Cup titles followed by posting the best regular-season record in the Western Conference make Houston as successful a team as their is in the league, with a strong roster and winning track record that hasn’t been erased by one series upset.
That doesn’t mean we can’t start wondering what will happen to the Dynamo next. Whether they won a third MLS Cup title or not, the big question was going to be just how would the Dynamo keep its team together after the 2008 season.
With some veterans getting older, younger talents reaching points in their career where they will be due higher salaries, and expansion likely to cost the Dynamo some talent as wel, Houston is very likely to see the first significant shake-up of the roster since the club moved from San Jose.
So what can we expect this off-season?
What will happen with Brian Ching and Dwayne DeRosario?
The team’s two top stars could be on the move this off-season. There have long been rumors about Ching potentially making the move to the Seattle Sounders FC. Ching played college soccer in Washington and also began his pro playing career there for the Spokane Shadow. Will the Dynamo really let him go?
Then there is DeRosario, who has long been linked to a potential move to Toronto FC. A Toronto native, DeRosario is a cult hero up north and TFC has tons of allocation money and first-round draft picks it could use to lure make Houston consider dealing. With Stuart Holden as a likely replacement, Houston could very well consider moving DeRosario to strengthen in other areas.
Who will Houston lose in the expansion draft?
Much like it lost Ryan Cochrane to San Jose in last year’s expansion draft, the Dynamo is sure to lose a quality player in the Seattle expansion draft. Don’t be surprised if that player is Nate Jaqua, a solid contributor at forward, but an expendable player with ties to the Pacific Northwest (he is from Oregon).
Will the Dynamo consider a designated player?
If Houston loses Ching and/or DeRosario, the Dynamo might have little choice but to use its designated player slot. The real question is whether Dynamo ownership is ready to do that. Houston draws good crowds and has had good success without a DP, and adding one might force the team to make some tough roster decisions.
Will Pat Onstad play another year?
Pat Onstad had one of the best season’s of his career, and helped Houston post the fewest goals allowed in MLS, but he turns 41 in January and the question must be asked whether he wants to return. If Onstad decides to hang it up, Houston will almost certainly turn elsewhere rather than hand the job to Tony Caig.
One Onstad replacement to consider is none other than Red Bulls goalkeeper Jon Conway. The Red Bulls’ starter before being hit with a suspension for a failed performance-enhancing drug test, Conway started his career in San Jose, spending six seasons as a back-up for the Earthquakes. Dom Kinnear was a San Jose assistant or head coach for five of those six years. Conway was steady as a starter for the Red Bulls this year before losing his form at just around the time when he learned of his looming suspension. Conway will have five games left on his drug suspension when the 2009 season begins (four games if the Red Bulls reach MLS Cup) and stands a good chance of being dealt, particuarly if Danny Cepero continues his playoff heroics.
Will John Spencer leave?
Dom Kinnear is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, coach in MLS. While that may be, he still does rely on top assistant John Spencer, one of the most highly-regarded assistants in the league. Spencer should be a candidate for a head coaching job, and if he leaves it will definitely hurt Houston in the locker room.
These are just some of the things to consider as the Dynamo head into the off-season. What do you see Houston doing this winter? Do you see a major shake-up, or will the Dynamo return with most of its main players in 2009? Can the Dynamo rebound and contend for MLS Cup again in 2009, or has its dynasty come to an end?
Share your thoughts below.