2014 MLS Season Review: Houston Dynamo

Eastern Conference Final Position: 8th

Review

They started the season with a flyer, beating New England 4-0 at home but struggled without Brad Davis during the World Cup and never challenged for a playoff spot.

Best Moment

Signing DaMarcus Beasley – World Cup star Beasley joining Houston was a signal that the Dynamo can still attract marquee signings.

Worst Moment

Mark Sherrod’s injury – Just twelve minutes into the D.C United game, Sherrod went down and the forward’s season was over. We’re hoping to see him fully fit in 2015.

Player of the Year

Brad Davis was the main man and the leader of the pack. They missed his influence massively while he was at the World Cup in Brazil.

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Biggest Win

Houston Dynamo 4-0 New England Revolution (March 9 2014)

Biggest Defeat

New York Red Bulls 4-0 Houston Dynamo (April 23 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

Houston needs to strengthen defensively; possibly another midfielder in the draft, someone who can learn from Brad Davis so they can form a core to build around.

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Will USA win the World Cup before England secure a second?

As of this moment in time, the USMNT are in a better position to win the World Cup than England.

This is mainly down to the infrastructure that Jurgen Klinsmann has installed within US soccer, as well as the regulations within MLS that promote youth development.

There will be many that argue MLS is weaker than the English Premier League, and that the standard of individuals within the English national team are better than the Americans – and they’re probably right.

But from a tactical and physical standpoint, the USA are far better.

In Brazil, England got it horribly wrong, playing three of their four strikers in all three, group games. This may have worked if they had a world-class defensive midfielder – which Roy Hodgson didn’t have at his disposal, and if the wide players could defend – Wayne Rooney couldn’t do it all that well when played on the left.

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USA on the other hand approached each game with caution and confidence in their ability to defend. Their counter-attacking system became a thing of beauty as they pushed heavyweights like Germany, Portugal and Belgium all the way.

Going forward, US soccer has great prospects coming through and the younger players like DeAndre Yedlin and John Anthony Brooks look set to shine from this moment forward.

The blaring difference within English football is the game time given to young prospects. For example, by the time most players turn 21 in England, they have spent most of their professional career out on loan in lower divisions. Whereas, at 20, Yedlin has had ample game time and is looking set to play as an All-Star in MLS next month.

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US soccer will only get stronger and finally has a clear direction in which to head under Jurgen Klinsmann. England, on the other hand, is still unclear if their senior players can handle the pressure on the biggest stage.

Realistically, England has the best league in the world and some world-class talent, but the national side have yet to develop a system and a playing style that can allow them to reach their potential.

US soccer has the resources and the athletes to eventually win a World Cup. We estimate it will take another ten years before they can really challenge, but this looks like a much shorter timescale than the one English football has, even if the FA have set the goal of winning the tournament in 2022.

Will USA win a World Cup before England?

What next for Klinsmann and the USA?

USA fell narrowly to Belgium in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday night, losing 2-1 in extra time but they gave a great account of themselves and earned many plaudits from worldwide supporters.

The USA impressed and exceeded expectations at the World Cup and have now officially announced themselves as an elite footballing nation.

The performance last night typified them as a group. They were unified in defeat and resilient towards the end, with a never-say-die attitude that has to be admired.

Jurgen Klinsmann now has the task of building towards the next World Cup in Russia in 2018, and he has the potential in this squad to succeed there.

DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green both showed promise and were both a threat against a very strong Belgium side.

Going forward, this ageing USA squad must develop the younger players, which will leave question marks over the international futures of players like DaMarcus Beasley and Kyle Beckerman.

The USA look very strong at the back, and have potential to better the current unit with the likes of John Anthony Brooks and Yedlin coming through the ranks.

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There is a question regarding the excellent Tim Howard and if he will be around for the next World Cup as he will be 39 by the time the tournament in Russia comes around.

There are plenty of emerging American goalkeepers in MLS that now have a chance to prove their quality to Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the next tournament.

One thing is for sure, the USA can be proud of their team and they have more than proved they are capable of challenging the best on the biggest stage.

Belgium now progress to the quarter-finals on Saturday, where they will play Argentina.

Takeaways from Toronto’s 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena

MLS is back after a two week break for the World Cup, and Toronto FC visited the New York Red Bulls on Friday night in an exciting game where the Canadian side were robbed of three points in injury time.

It was game that was made a spectacle by designated players, as there was a DP in every goal of the night. Even Gilberto bagged a goal, and he will take confidence from finally ending his goal drought.

We take a look at what we can take away from the score draw:

1. Is Jermain Defoe Roy Hodgson’s greatest omission?

Being left out of the England World Cup squad would have disappointed him immensely, especially because in hindsight, England lacked a world class finisher in Brazil.

However, Defoe was straight back to business on Friday night as he netted his eighth goal in nine games this season with cracking finish on the run.

2. Thierry Henry – will he ever lose it?

‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ could not describe this man better.

Having only joined up with the squad on Monday after working as a pundit for the BBC at the World Cup, Henry looked more than comfortable in his side’s return to action.

The respect opposition defenders give him, allows him to dictate play even in the final third. His contribution is priceless to New York.

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3. Gilberto can score!

It took him ten appearances, but it was more than worth the wait, as Gilberto opened his MLS account with a free kick to be remembered. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

He has lacked energy and hunger since his move stateside, but Friday night was a vast improvement.

Coming off the bench to score clearly shows there is something there; he just has to replicate it on a regular basis from now.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

 

USA progress further than England at the World Cup: What does this mean for US Soccer?

The USA qualified from the ‘Group of Death’ on Thursday and with that excellent achievement progressed into the last 16 of the World Cup for the second successive tournament.

This marks the first time that the USA have gone further than the English at the World Cup, so what does this mean for US Soccer?

Well firstly it means that the World should start taking US soccer seriously. Major League Soccer is constantly improving, and as a result the national team’s standard is too.

USA arguably had a more difficult group than England but looked more than comfortable defending against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

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Going into the tournament, the majority of international fans wouldn’t have known who Matt Besler and Kyle Beckerman were, but they sure do now after stellar performances from both, as with most of the USA roster.

The success stems from the philosophy set by coach Jurgen Klinsmann who has put emphasis on developing soccer in the US throughout all levels of the game.

A plan has been put in place by Klinsmann to use an experience-filled team in order to set a platform for younger players to adhere and adapt to.

So far the younger players have added to the squad when called upon with John Brooks scoring the crucial winner against Ghana and DeAndre Yedlin causing problems off the bench in the last two games.

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England lack direction at the moment and therefore USA are in a better position going forward.

The work of Jurgen Klinsmann is somewhat going unnoticed on a global scale and that can mask the master plan he is conjuring stateside, with his role in US soccer being seen as more than just a coaching role, but also as a head of soccer development.

As for England, there is no way of knowing where their standard will be come the next World Cup in Russia.

Whereas the USA have promise going forward and with the ever-expanding MLS behind them, the depth of US soccer will only increase.

The current crop are grinding out great results and look to be in excellent shape going forward, and as such have looked a far better footballing nation than England in Brazil.

What can the USMNT expect from Portugal?

The USMNT play Portugal in Manaus on Sunday night in a game which could settle the second qualifying spot in Group G.

On paper this Portugal team is superior to USA, but recent performances leave the USA with a very strong chance of winning.

The USA go into the game coming off the back of a resolute performance in a 2-1 win against Ghana, while the Portuguese were sub-standard against the Germans, and were thumped 4-0.

Portugal will be without Pepe who is suspended after picking up a red card in the defeat to Germany, and will be significantly weaker defensively.

Cristiano Ronaldo is also a major doubt as he is struggling to overcome a knee injury and his World Cup could be over.

The Ballon d’Or winner has been suffering with injuries to his knee and thigh for some time now and has been told to rest up for at least 2 months.

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However, the USA are missing a big name too in Jozy Altidore, another who’s World Cup could be over after he pulled up in the game against Ghana with a hamstring injury just 20 minutes in.

Portugal are likely to still play with a 4-3-3, whether Ronaldo plays or not, in a system that will provide width and freedom for their wide men.

We expect that Portugal will dominate possession with the likes of Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles in midfield. But with the likes of Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones protecting the back four, the USA are more than capable of suppressing the Portuguese advances.

Key Man: Nani

Should Ronaldo not be able to play, Nani will need to step up and perform. The Manchester United man has had one of his worst seasons in England this year, and Portugal will hope he can lead them to victory.

Prediction: USA 2- 1 Portugal

We believe USA is more than capable of beating this Portugal side if they perform as they did against Ghana, but they will have to work hard to do so. Another strong defensive performance is needed to win here and a victory will seal their place in the next round.

Reaction to the USA’s vital World Cup win against Ghana

USA beat Ghana 2-1 last night in one of the best defensive performances of the World Cup so far.

USA looked resolute in defence and seemed destined for the three points from the first whistle as Clint Dempsey netted the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history.

John Anthony Brooks was the standout performer for the Stars and Stripes and the winning goal was deserved following a brilliant defensive performance after coming on at halftime..

Calls will be made for him to start, but should Matt Besler recover for the Portugal game, it’s hard to see Jurgen Klinsmann changing the back four.

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However, the win was not without casualties, as Jozy Altidore limped off little after 20 minutes of the game with a hamstring injury that looks to have ended his World Cup.

Aron Johannsson, who deputised for Altidore, is not to the same standard and doesn’t fit the USA game plan, so should Altidore not be able to continue, surely a change in tactics will be necessary.

With a midfield that was basically a flat four, Jermaine Jones thrived. The 32 year-old was immense and gave everything to the cause, even though he was out of position on the left.

A special mention must also go to Kyle Beckerman who rallied his teammates and broke up play when called upon. He will be key if the USA is to beat Portugal.

The USA now go into the Portugal game on Sunday full of confidence and Portugal are coming off the back of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Germany.

Everything is going to plan for the USMNT. The game on Sunday is being seen as the battle for second place in Group G and a win on Sunday will surely see them into the last 16.

USA to host FIFA World Cup?

FIFA have told The United States Soccer Federation to prepare to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Through fresh corruption allegations surrounding Qatar’s successful bid to host the event, FIFA are seriously considering reselection, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter describing the allocation a ‘mistake’.

Should the event be hosted by Qatar in 2022, it brings about other issues such as the climate, and it has also been suggested the event could be moved to the winter.

Should the USA host the World Cup it would only improve the quality of soccer in America, as well as improving popularity of Major League Soccer across the globe.

Previously hosting the tournament in 1994, America has all the resources to host the games, including some of the best stadiums in the world.

Although there are several soccer specific stadiums now in use in the USA, a World Cup would see American football stadiums used by NFL teams due to the need for high capacity.

With the growth of MLS, and with David Beckham’s Miami franchise set to be up and running by the time the 2022 World Cup come round, this World Cup could be the boost MLS needs.

We expect soccer to take off in America and the USMNT will naturally become stronger because of this.

There is even the possibility of the USA winning the World Cup soon, and where better to do it than on home soil?