What next for the Houston Dynamo?


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.

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53 Responses to What next for the Houston Dynamo?

  1. fan says:

    DeRo to TFC!!!

  2. jmac says:

    I think its likely that either DeRo or Ching moves on this season. I hope its DeRo, as I believe Holden is a more effective replacement in the midfield and that the Dynamo are generally deeper in the midfield. Losing Ching (and possibly Jacqua) would force the Dynamo to look for another forward. The Franco Caraccio experiment failed this season, and while Kei Kamara is a nice addition, he is at best an average #2 or good #3 forward. And Tony Caig is horrible, so please Patty O. don’t leave us!

  3. jmac says:

    Trading DeRo to TFC for a 1st round pick + allocation money to help with the salary cap would be a fair trade.

  4. djhbv23 says:

    dynamo will be ok. great coaching and some good up and comers. i think leting dero go would be better than leting ching go because its easier to replace a mid than a good striker.

  5. jmac says:

    Adding a DP would also be a big risk for the team’s management. The Dynamo last year (according to Forbes) did not turn a profit, despite strong attendance and solid advertising. Adding an expensive DP is therefore risky, plus the fact that the team has yet to finalize plans for their own stadium.

  6. firefan06 says:

    I’ll be shocked if Jaqua isn’t in Seattle next season. The reason he left Chicago was to play closer to home (at the time, LA).

  7. J says:

    What is a real shame is that Houston now may not qualify for the Champions League next year. Houston was the one team in MLS that seemed prepared for the CL competition this year. The four qualifiers next year will be Columbus, DCU, and two of the other three remaining playoff teams — if Columbus loses. If Columbus advances to the MLS Cup Final, then I think Houston still sneaks in on virtue of its Western Conference regular season title.

  8. mike17 says:

    why does DC get into champs league next year?

  9. Alex says:

    If I was Houston I would get rid of anybody BUT DeRosario.

  10. Ted says:

    Holden is more than ready for the full time job in DeRo’s spot, should he leave or be traded to TFC.

    I’d protect Holden, Clark, Ching, Jaqua, Kamara, Davis, Robinson, Boswell, Barrett and Mullan if I were Houston and DeRo was leaving.

  11. Tom P says:

    They need more players-depth- just like any ML:S squad will need who finishes in the top 4 and thus plays in the SuperLiga, Champions League and the U.S. Open Cup.(Plus international call ups)

    It is just way too much for an 18 man squad with the bottom 10 or so players grossly under paid and subsequently raw/inexperienced/lacking quality to maintain consistent good form in all competitions.

    And look at it this way: Houston handled better then anyone else did who had to run this gauntlet. Look at Chivas, D.C. and the N.E. for further evidence of this. All things being equal- Houston was by far the best of the four.

  12. J says:

    DC qualifies for the CL next year by virtue of its U.S. Open Cup title.

  13. galaxyfanz says:

    Houston would make CCL if CBus makes final, assuming same qualification criteria. CUSA got in this year as #2 points in the league, Houston was #2 points this year.

  14. brett says:

    mike17 – DCU won the USOC this season

    Houston will be fine…

    Dero would be a hit, but as someone else has pointed out, he’s replaceable…. Ching is only as good as the wingers who distribute the ball to him… i like ching, but i think its the surrounding players that make him so good in the league…. but losing Ching would be a hit on the scoring threats…

    overall, i dont see Hou leaving Holden unprotected…. that would be a long-term hit to the team…

  15. andy says:

    holden MUST be protected, he is quality. caig is awful, hopefully we can jettison him this offseason and pick up somebody better, conway is really an interesting idea

  16. Brian says:

    I believe Jaqua’s contract already had a stipulation that he would be traded to Seattle after this season.

  17. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    a big question for me is IF TFC makes a move for DeRo, where would we play him?

    We’ve already got Guevara and DeRo has said that he doesnt want to play as a striker (lord knows we need a poacher). Also at what cost. Dont get me wrong, i love the dude and he should come home but as a DP? To sell the farm? To possibly threaten chemistry that took so long to build with existing players?

  18. John says:

    1. I can’t see Ching leaving. Seattle has Keller and Ljungberg. I think they’re limited in the ability to keep adding high salaried players.

    2. I don’t think Jaqua gets exposed in the expansion draft–it would be a lock that Seattle would pick him. Far smarter for Houston to get something for him, to do with FCD did with Serious and TFC: promise to expose Jaqua if Seattle gives them something in advance. Or trade Jaqua to Seattle for something (allocation $, draft pick and a promise not to pick anyone else from the roster).

    3. I think the larger issue for Houston (and all the stronger teams in MLS, and this also includes the RedBulls) is that they lose a player this year, than probably 2 players next year and a player after that. So teams need to ask: “given that we’re going to be taking expansion hits this year, next year and the year after–how does that affect who we protect THIS year?” I’m guessing it means that players who may have a contract up in one year may be more likely to be exposed, players who are young but still far from starting or being on of the top 12-13 players (like Kandji) may get exposed.

    4. Houston has probably been the second best team in MLS this year and the second most consistent team (behind Columbus). But lost in their title success the past couple of years is that not only were they not SS winners any years, they weren’t even the best team in the West. They’ve managed to retain all of their critical pieces and most of their role players the past 3 years. But no-one in MLS manages to pull that off more than 3-4 years at most: not the old DC United teams with Etcheverry, not the great Fire teams with Nowak and Kubik, not the LAG teams with Cienfuegos, and now not Houston. Expansion only makes that problem a bigger issue.

  19. JohnnyDub says:

    Jaqua and Ching are both in Seattle with Ljungberg and Keller next season…

    I hope.

    I’d even like to see DeRo in TFC, but without Ching, DeRo, Jaqua and the retiring Onstad, I don’t think I really know anyone left in Houston.

  20. soccerroo says:

    Losing Dero would be a killer. Ching’s 13 goals was good but not great and I think the drop from Sero to holden is bigger than Ching to another forward would be. I maybe wrong but i think there are far fewer great central mids than forwards of Ching’s quality and that is not a knock on Ching.

  21. Justin O says:

    More relevant than Ching’s time in Spokane (still pretty far from Seattle) in college (Gonzaga) and as a pro – Ching’s a former Seattle Sounder.

    I guess a lot depends on whether or not he liked Seattle.

  22. jmac says:

    oh me oh my I hadn’t even considered the loss’ impact on CONCACAF Champions League.

  23. Ching & DeRosario should stay, though they could be great contributors at most any MLS club.

    There are plenty of good soccer players in the US which could replace exiting Dynamos, or add to expansion teams. We just need them to commit to “finding” their form.

    Form must be found via innumerable hours of practice… the difference between good players and great ones. The tone of these articles implying that talent is rare in the US…. MLS tells us so, but its balderdash. Its there just requiring the right level of commitment and the right coaching.

    I reckon there is enough talent in Coffeyville, Kansas (+/- center of the US) for a MLS team – it just needs the overwhelming passion. (OK, Coffeyville may be a stretch, unless they have a generation to get there, but if it were an England town where soccer matters, it could happen)

    Without passion, you can have talent, but you end up with a Galaxy-Beckham, not a ManUtd-Beckham. Passion, and what it drives a player to do, is what makes a mediocre talent phenomenal. Players should play where they are passionate about playing.

    The MLS seems so pessimistic, one hardly knows it is football.

  24. Byron says:

    This is a silly topic. There is no reason to trade Dero to Toronto. Dynamo staff in the past has proven it could care less about draft picks. We haven’t had a first round pick in several years. As for Ching, it was understood when Jacqua signed with us this summer that he would get to move to Seattle in the expansion draft. I think Holden still has another year on his deal and will then want to move to Europe (UK Passport) so you just ride him out until then.

  25. Byron says:

    One other thing, Dero is the second best player in the league. You can’t replace him. Those that say you can, obviously don’t watch him very often.

  26. Chris says:

    Wade Barrett to take over for John Spencer. Heard it here first, folks! Just kidding, though not a bad idea since Wade’s time as an effective outside back seem done b/c of speed issues.

    DeRo to Toronto for Wynne, plus a player we can trade to RSL for Seitz. Jaqua is going to Seattle, without a doubt. Whether he gets left open or Houston makes Seattle trade for him is the bigger question.

  27. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    Firefan, you must have a short memory. TFC took Jaqua in the expansion draft. The Fire left him exposed because of his desire to go to Europe. When there wasn’t any offers to do so, he then engineered a trade of his rights to LA. And JMac, you’re right about the DP thing, but DC is in the same boat, and they have two of them. So we’ll see.

  28. Nico7 says:

    I would wager that both Jacqua and Waibel both end up in Sounder blue and green next year…

    I’m hoping Holden gets a chance to be the playmaker next year, have been pretty impressed with him of late, plus I wonder if DeRo is ready to head to TFC and lead them to the playoffs next year (potentially)

    There are also rumors that Kinnear could be leaving to coach the Sounders next year (he too is a former player, albeit for only a few months), if that happens I could see some really big personel changes in Houston

  29. Ossington Mental Youth says:


    Sorry buddy, dont think youll see Wynne leaving for DeRo anytime soon. If its an offer, itll be draft picks and moneys or something to that effect. Really dont see DeRo coming anytime soon, unless Guevara leaves/retires and we get a good deal on DeRo…

  30. brentmcd says:

    kinnear has instituted a wing-style play with aerial service into larger forwards (or defensemen on set pieces). davis and mullan are excellent at crossing the ball in, and ching has been a good target man. as the talent level improves league-wide, i’m not sure if this paradigm is effective into the future.

    in the midfield, de-ro and clark have been able to control things in the past, but both players seem to have really fallen off, occasionally disappearing for long stretches of matches.

    anyway, this team was exposed as old and slow, and it may be time to rebuild. holden is potentially a good centerpiece, but he’s likely gone to europe soon.

    protect: boswell, robinson, cameron, clark, davis, mullan, holden, jaqua

    whoever mentioned it, i really like a de-ro for wynne trade….

  31. Ben says:


    Brian Ching also played one season for the USL Seattle Sounders before making the move to MLS. He scored 17 goals that season.

  32. Nicole says:

    Holden is more than ready to take DeRo’s spot. In fact, I dare say Houston plays better with Holden on the field than DeRo. DeRo hasn’t played real well for the last 2 years. He’s too unpredictable for his own good; often tries to do too much, taking ill-advised shots when a pass to an open teammate is better or trying to dribble through 3 or 4 players when possession should be maintained; he goes for the spectacular too much and hurts his team. (I know this will be an unpopular sentiment here.)

    Holden, on the other hand, combines very well with teammates, covers more ground and wins the ball with better defensive effort than DeRo, makes the smart pass while at the same time going forward and attacking the goal.

    They wouldn’t miss DeRo at all if they let him go.

  33. AlexS says:

    Why are we talking about the Dynamo’s offseason right now? They aren’t in offseason until the Concacaf Champions League match on Nov 24 is done.

  34. AlexS says:

    Oh, and the real question here is whether or not Boswell bolts, Waibel retires, and what position Cameron finds a home in.

    I hate to say it, but our best centerback pair this year was Boswell/Cameron. Sorry ERob (who has been playing injured) and Ianni.

  35. Heffe says:

    All good things must come to an end. I think there could be a lot of shake up within the organization, and this could be a perfect storm of disaster if everything were to go wrong.

  36. Heffe says:

    All good things must come to an end. I think there could be a lot of shake up within the organization, and this could be a perfect storm of disaster if everything were to go wrong.

  37. MLS Fan says:

    Wynne for DeRo is not going to happen …. above all else, the ownership of TFC (ML$E) think dollars and cents. Wynne will be worth a nice transfer fee in the near future the way he is developing and Mo & ML$E will not pass up that opportunity for a 3 yo player who will want dp $.

  38. Krista says:

    DeRo can go to TFC. Holden will do just fine. And what is Boswell’s situation? Is he staying in HOU?

  39. roger says:

    dero to europe! i think dominic should give a LAtino another shot being that half of DYNAMO fans are hispanic. not necessarily a DP.

    side note: yesterdays game looked like a semi-pro match.

    ching can leave his legs are getting heavy

  40. northzax says:

    Boswell is out of contract, isn’t he? Wasn’t that one of the reasons DCU sent him to Houston?

  41. jmac says:

    Waibel has gone on the record with the local media that he will not leave Houston for Seattle. He said he is comfortable in Houston and doesn’t want a big change to an expansion club.

    as far as the DeRo v. Holden talk, I think I lean more towards the “Holden is ready camp.” Holden links up with his teammates well, tackles well, can play as the creative no. 10 for the Dynamo, and is a threat to score.

    And for all the “Houston was exposed” talk (yeah you, brettmd), that is just absurd. 1st place in the West, Superliga Final, and best performing MLS squad in Concacaf Champions League. My arse we were “exposed.” what a joke.

  42. Brokenbil says:

    Wow, would Houston really change that much in the off-season? It’s sad to me to think that a good team could be seriously diminished by trades and the expansion draft. I hope the Dynamo doesn’t change too much. I don’t see how it could benefit them.

  43. Krista says:

    No Boswell wanted a trade because he couldn’t see eye to eye with the management of the team. At least that is what I got from what I read.

    I’m just not clear if he signed a one year contract with HOU.

  44. John says:

    Actually, after thinking about it, I have one other point to make about Houston. If the RedBulls advance, that means Houston is not in the Champions League. That helps them immensely.

    Most MLS teams played 33-34 competitive games this year (I’m including a USOC game or two and 2 playoff games). But Houston, DC United and NE all played between 47-52 competitive games this season (and no, I don’t count tours of Australia as competitive). Included in that is stuff like Superliga, the Champions League and prior to that the Concacaf Cup plus the USOC and some had a play-in to the Champions League.

    What this year’s playoffs results do is to probably add about 6-8 (and maybe more depending upon Superliga) competitive games to the schedules of Columbus, Chicago, RSL and RedBulls. And with the demise of the Concacaf Cup, subtract some games from Houston and DC, and then with failure to qualify for the Champions League, subtract 6 more games from NE and Houston.

    So I think Houston will bleed some this offseason and then some more next offseason and then some more due to expansion and some age, they may actually look better next season just because you subtract about 10-12 games from their schedule and add a bunch of games to Columbus, RedBull, RSL and Chicago’s schedules.

    Additionally, you add an expansion team to the West. Which unless the 2009 schedule is completely balanced, will allow strong teams in the west to do a little fattening up of their W-L record.

  45. Tim says:


    The redbulls havnt qualified for anything. Houston,Cbus, Chicago, and Chivas are in for SuperLiga assuming the same as this past year.

    DC and Columbus are for sure in CCL and Houston will be if Cbus just makes it to the MLS Cup (because they will be SS runners up)

    NY and RSL havent gotten into anything… yet.

    So thats still a huge potential lineup of games for Houston, especially if they make it to the Knock-Out of this current CCL which takes place in March (replacing the CCC games)

    And the current expansion (SJ) did nothing to fatten up west records.

  46. John says:


    1. I said that this could “potentially” affect schedules. I agree that RedBulls have not qualified for anything…yet. All we’re talking is the results of two games: a Columbus loss and a RedBulls win.

    2. Unless there is a change, Superliga spots go to the teams with the top 4 spots in MLS: Columbus, Houston, Chicago and Chivas. That would add 4-6 games for Columbus, Chicago while reducing games for NE and DC United.

    3. The top MLS teams won’t have to play in the Concacaf Cup that Houston and DC played in this year (I believe that meant 4 games for each team).

    4. San Jose came on strong at the tend yet still missed out in the playoffs in the weaker of the two Conferences (the West). Least we forget, San Jose was shut out 16 times this season, had only FOUR games in which they scored more than 2 goals. They have the likely new comer of the year (Darren Huckerby) was is an anomaly for an expansion team (you have to go back to Chicago to find an expansion team where a new foreign signing was so successful in one season).

    In summary, Houston will definitely play fewer games in 2009 than they did in 2008, they’ll have an expansion team to play against, and some of the best teams this season are going to have to play a bunch more games. All of that benefits Houston (though it probably benefits NE and DC more because they’ll play even fewer matches).

  47. Carlos says:

    Krista – Boswell “didn’t see eye to eye with the management” of DC because Soehn treated him like crap after he refused to renegotiate his contract. So, yes, he requested a trade, but he will be out of contract after one more match. Both he and Stuart Holden have expressed interest in playing in Europe, although Stuart is still under contract.

  48. brentmcd says:

    @jmac: Yes, despite all the “success” this year (no silverware, BTW), Houston’s back line has been exposed as being way too slow.

    The core of this team has been together since San Jose days. Robinson, Waibel, Mulrooney, and Barrett are all getting old. Did you watch the UNAM game where they repeatedly ran through our defense? Ianni hasn’t stepped up. Wondolowski isn’t there yet either. Chabala has potential. Boswell is good, but will he stay?

    I’d like to think we can make a deep run in Champions League, but I’m afraid Santos and Marathon will torch our aging defenders yet again. Hope I’m wrong, but I’m thinking it’s time to rebuild with some younger guys.

    My two pesos. Peace

  49. Betinho says:

    Get a new stadium with their own groundskeepers. I whole heartedly believe the field conditions cost them that game.

  50. JT says:

    Jaqua IS going to Seattle. When he signed with Houston, it was already agreed that he would become Seattle property for the 09 season. Whether that means he is claimed in the expansion draft or traded, is unknown.

  51. donjuego says:

    Bobby Boswell said publicly tonight at the Dynamo Awards Ceremony that he loves it in Houston, and looks forward to coming back next season and winning Houston another MLS Cup.

  52. Tim says:

    Dude John you are an idiot. Houston will likely play THE SAME AMOUNT OF GAMES. Heres why:

    1. If they beat Firpo later this month, they get into the knockout round of the Champions League which takes place in March of NEXT YEAR. It will have the same exact format as the CC Cup has had in the past.

    2. They are currently in SuperLiga for 09.

    3. If Columbus makes it to the MLS Cup, they will be in for the 09-10 CCL.

    All of that together means the same number of games.

    NY, on the other hand, has yet to get into anything and AT MOST will get the CCL games in the fall of next year which is 6 games more.

  53. Keith says:

    WOW! Oregon isn’t even close to seattle…..

    That’s ridiculous that a tie to another state would make him a draw.