Friday, September 18, 2009

Orange and red. And red, and red, and red, and red, and...

My old dad had a simple saying for me: "When you start something, finish it."

The Houston Dynamo could use a little bit of that right about now. Check out this little stat:

Red cards issued to Houston Dynamo in all competitions since the MLS All-Star Game: Eight
Red cards issued to Dynamo in all competitions before MLS All-Star Game: One (to Mike Chabala against NYRB in the 93rd minute April 11)

That truly is an amazing statistic. And now another one:

Dynamo record in all competitions before the avalanche of reds began: 11-7-6
Dynamo record in all competitions since: 3-4-3

Goals for and against since that same date: 11-13 (-2)
And before: 30-20 (+10)

Clearly, frustrations are winning through. And even though you can dispute many if not all of those red card decisions (three of course were in the Arabe Unido "game"), the fact is Dynamo has not been playing at anywhere near the form they showed in May, June and July. This current three game losing streak has the team looking several shades below title-quality.

So perhaps shedding the moody Kei Kamara and having his spot taken by El Escorpion and Cam the Killer Weaver will help. Kamara's sudden departure reminds me of the Rockets' elision of Vernon Maxwell prior to their 1995 title run. We can only hope for such a similar happy ending this time around.

The thing that makes this so frustrating from the stands is that this team clearly is among the league elite. When their form is on, there is no other team in MLS that can hang with them. The mental and defensive toughness, skill , precision and flair that have always been part of the Orange Way are all still there. But this challenge is unlike any I have seen the team face since coming to Houston in 2006. Champions adjust, and only time will tell whether this team will be able to do so. Finishing more scoring chances than you surrender would be a good start, though. Landin and Ching each missed clear chances in Columbus last week.

As for the Kamara trade, a few thoughts:

He clearly wasn’t enamored of the Landin signing (as Kyle McCarthy points out in this article on , especially since Landin would fill Kei’s spot opposite Ching. Once Landin signed, Kamara started his sulk. And we all know how much time Dom has for players who sulk.

Finances are always a big deal. The guy was going to be out of contract at the end of the year and he clearly wanted more money. If they did not deal him now, they would have gotten nothing for him after the season. Now, you could argue that Abe Thompson isn’t that much above nothing (and you’d be right), but Abe Thompson’s contract plus the allocation dough they got in this deal is more than they would have gotten had they allowed Kamara to play out his contract and let him leave because they weren’t going to pay him what he wanted.

The forward situation is not really all that dire right now, even without Kamara. In addition to Ching, you have Cam Weaver, who works better with Ching than Kamara did anyway, and Landin, with former FC Worthless teammates Thompson and Dominic Oduro (the latter of which I have no faith in) coming off the end of the bench. That’s three players playing in two spots and two more guys pushing from behind. Where was Kamara going to fit into that picture, especially since he was sulking?

Don’t get me wrong. I liked Kei Kamara and thought he was yet one more successful reclamation project from the Canetti/Kinnear/Spencer pipeline. But I think Weaver has more upside, has shown more killer instinct for the ball and the goal and like the tandem of Ching/Weaver/Landin more than Ching/sulky Kamara/Landin/Weaver.

Now this does not include a look at next year, when this team could be fundamentally altered. I’m thinking both Clark and Holden will be gone and Ching’s effectiveness will be even more on the wane as he ages. Right now, I think at this time next year you could be looking a lineup like this:


With a bench of: Ching, Cochrane, Mulrooney, Barrett, Danny Cruz

Plus whatever moves might also be made.

For now though, the focus is on getting on form, winning games and taking big points. That and trying to make sure that everyone who starts the game finishes it. After all, it's all about finishing isn't it?

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