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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Thursday, 11 February 2010
A view from the top of Robertson Stadium

Step outside your door or open your window and what do you hear? Nothing? If you listen real close you can hear the gentle sounds of plastic boots hitting synthetic soccer balls at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex. The Dynamo have started playing again. Now, don’t start packing your car for the first TA tailgate at Robertson just yet. There are still a ways to go before that happens (April 1 to be precise).

The 2010 Dynamo training camp has started with the upcoming season just around the corner (assuming a new CBA agreement is reached soon Editor's Note: Major League Soccer and the Major League Soccer Players Union have agreed to negotate through February 25). So if you have been twitching and shaking since that fateful night in LA three months ago, have no fear. Your cure is almost here.

If the Dwayne De Rosario to Toronto FC trade during the 2008 offseason left the Men in Orange with question marks, then the team comes into the 2010 season with question marks, upside-down question marks, exclamation points, ampersands, ellipses, number signs and semicolons.

Here’s a look at whom the Dynamo have lost and whom they’ve gained.

GONE:

Stuart Holden (free transfer to Bolton FC)

Stuart Holden, 10.18.09 Dynamo v. LA Galaxy Houston’s adopted son has moved on to greener pastures leaving many sad and some shocked. Known for his goofy, outgoing persona; his incredible contributions to the community; and for his skill and ability on the pitch, Holden was arguably the most popular Dynamo player last season. However, his move to Europe should come as no surprise even if he consistently professed his love for the city and the Dynamo organization. His status as a UK resident meant that he would have a relatively easy time finding opportunities abroad.

After deciding to leave Clemson at the age of 20, Holden utilized his UK passport for a chance at glory with Sunderland. Unfortunately, his time in England was cut short due to a savage attack outside a bar in Newcastle. Upon his return and four seasons later, he became one of the rising stars of MLS.

The league and the Dynamo offered to renegotiate his paltry $30000-a-year salary for one that had an extra zero or two. Holden declined. One should’ve doubted that he would stay in Houston if presented with a reasonable offer from a club in the UK…and he got one. More power to him and good luck to him, but that means that Houston now has a gigantic gap in the middle of pitch like they did after De Rosario’s departure.

Ricardo Clark (free transfer Eintracht Frankfurt)

Ricardo Clark, 10.18.09 Houston Dynamo v. LA GalaxyBut unlike the start of 2009, Houston no longer has the security blanket of Ricardo Clark in midfield.

The positive is that Houston and its fans have known this was coming for some time. When Clark didn’t join newly-promoted Serie A club Livorno in the summer of 2009, it seemed clear that he would leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.

He didn’t waste any time after the LA playoff loss to declare his intentions to not re-sign with MLS. After months of little information as to where he would play next, Clark signed on a free transfer with Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

Like Holden, he will be a Dynamo legend and his departure magnifies the giant hole in midfield that must be filled.


Abe Thompson (waived)

Thompson was with Houston for two months after arriving from Kansas City in the Kei Kamara trade, playing in one MLS game and scoring one MLS goal. While that’s a hell of a goal scoring rate, his chances at playing time were slim in the Dynamo’s crowded forward line. He is now on Real Salt Lake’s roster.

John Michael Hayden (waived)

Despite being the Dynamo’s first-round pick in the 2007 SuperDraft, Hayden never played a single senior game in his three seasons in Houston…which might explain or at least provide evidence as to why Coach Dom Kinnear regularly trades his early round picks. But that’s a topic for another day.

ADDITIONS:

Kevin Harmse (acquired from Chivas USA for a conditional draft pick)

Continuing the Dynamo Canadian tradition is the 25-year-old, South African-born midfielder. After bouncing around various European leagues and the USL, Harmse eventually signed a contract with MLS in 2007 playing for the LA Galaxy.

While his playing time has been limited due to injuries, the talent seems to be there. Fans shouldn’t expect him to be Clark’s equal, but he adds depth and ability to the midfield and versatility to the roster — if he can stay healthy.

Eddie Robinson (acquired from the surgery table and rehab room)

OK, so technically Robinson isn’t an addition. But he played a whopping 30 minutes of MLS soccer last season. Voted as a MLS Best XI defender in 2007, he suffered a dip in form in 2008 before missing nearly all 2009. Ordinarily, the Dynamo might be reprimanded for putting their faith in a 31-year-old defender coming off major knee surgery. However, if you’ve ever met Robinson or seen him play, you'd know that you underestimate him at your own peril.

Besides, the Dynamo don’t have much choice.

The departure of Clark means that Geoff Cameron, the 2009 MLS All-Star defender and part of Best XI, is now needed in midfield. If Robinson is unable to regain his 2007 form, Coach Kinnear could be forced into using Cameron as a center back — once again leaving an already-thin midfield even more depleted. One could argue that Robinson’s play is one of the most important factors in determining the Dynamo’s success in 2010.

Player Behind Door Number 3 (acquired from God knows where)

It’s important to note that the roster is by no means set. One positive of Clark and Holden’s departures is that the team has some salary cap room to give to a new signing or two.

Coach Kinnear and Dynamo COO Chris Canetti have stated that they are looking to acquire various players. It’s not a matter of if the Dynamo will add someone, but more a matter of when…and who. If history is any indicator, Coach Kinnear won’t rush into anything. In the past, he has waited until June and July to find the right players. So while a signing could come as soon as tomorrow, don’t expect it.