Dynamo trialist Sito Seoane looking to impress in preseason

[Photo: Nigel Brooks]

The Dynamo have lost some players and filled some holes, but as the 2014 preseason continues and the season nears, head coach Dominic Kinnear could add some additional pieces to roster if the right player comes along.

Trialist Jose Sito Seoane wouldn’t mind being one of those players. As the lone Dynamo trialist so far, Seoane is hoping to make an impression on Kinnear and the Dynamo organization to earn his first professional contract.

Seoane comes to the Dynamo riding a wave of success in his career.

In August 2013, Seoane won the PDL championship with the Austin Aztex. The versatile striker scored two of the Aztex’s three goals in the championship game, which led to winning Most Valuable Player honors. On the way to the final, Seoane’s play made others take notice after scoring five goals in four playoff matches. It’s clear to see he was a large part of the organization’s first trophy.

At San Jacinto College, Seoane put up big numbers as well. In 22 games, he scored 30 goals and added 14 assists. The 74 combined point total led NJCAA and he went on to win All-American First Team honors for Division 1.

In an exclusive interview, Seoane tells me his goal this season is simple.

“To be healthy and play professional soccer,” he says.

One of the upsides for Seoane is he comes into camp at an opportunistic time. Houston has addressed most of their major needs, but could use some reinforcements in two areas Seoane says he feels most comfortable.

“My [favored] position is second striker or attacking mid,” he says. “I’ve been playing in that position the past few years and I’ve scored a lot of goals [as a second striker].”

Seoane’s play has improved over the past year, and he credits then head coach Paul Daglish and Manuel Buentello for much of his success.

“Paul and Manuel helped me grow as a player, not just on the field, but off as well,” he admits.

Coming into the Aztex organization, he started in the midfield, but transitioned to a second striker when Daglish shifted to a more offensive 4-3-3 formation.

Jeffery Burns, Director of Marketing and Communications with the Aztex, says Sito stood out as a very technical player during last year’s Collegiate Trail and the club brought him in.

“He’s quick on the ball,” says Burns. “He has a good touch that gets him through crowded areas and he’s not afraid to take a difficult shot.”

Take a look at some of Seoane’s highlights – pay special attention to these minute marks: 1:25, 1:57, 2:11, 3:42, 4:17, 6:42, 6:58 (assist).

“It was a really good feeling,” Seoane says about winning the PDL championship with Austin. “I learned how to be a professional player [in Austin],” he adds.

On Wednesday, Seoane did well in his first scrimmage with Houston after playing the second half in the first team's 4-0 win over the U-18 Dynamo Academy. Seoane was involved in much of the offense and scored an impressive goal on a free kick.

Sunday afternoon the Dynamo will scrimmage against their first Major League Soccer opponent when they face off against the Colorado Rapids at Houston Sports Park.

For now, Seoane has welcomed the chance to train with the Dynamo and is optimistic of his future.

“Signing a contract at this point would be perfect,” he says. “I’ve been working hard to get that chance.”

Farewell Brian | Thanks for the Memories

[Photo: Nigel Brooks]

It’s nearly impossible to put into words how special Friday, December 13 was for 6,523 people at BBVA Compass Stadium. In all reality, each individual person likely has a different moment they’ll hold on to forever from that night. But collectively, all in attendance were there for one single reason - Brian Ching.

After a decorated eight year career in orange, Brian Ching has played his last soccer match in Houston.

After being one of the biggest contributors in helping the Houston Dynamo organization become one of the most supported soccer franchises in the nation and one of the most successful sports teams in Houston, the Dynamo front office put together the ultimate thank you party.

And what a party it was.

Major League Soccer's first ever testimonial match was a fun filled night with a mix of soccer celebrities and Dynamo legends. A lighthearted game among friends - all there to support one of MLS' good guys.

In 2006, Brian Ching picked up his life and moved it to Houston after the San Jose Earthquakes decided to relocate to the Bayou City. Numerous comments have been made about how Ching not only made the move, but embraced his new city.  

In his first match in Houston, he electrified the crowd with four goals - as if he was letting Houston know they will come to love the Dynamo and him.

He kissed the word “Dynamo” on the front of his jersey - something that could nearly make you break down some eight years later contemplating what Ching has become to the city of Houston. 

“I’m truly blessed that we landed here in Houston in 2006. It couldn’t have been a better chain of events.”

Brian Ching has said many times he feels blessed to have somehow found his way to Houston. Fans are just as equally blessed to have been able to watch him lead this team to so many incredible accomplishments - on an off the field.

On the field with his attitude and competitive nature and off the field with his selfless acts of charity in the community, for eight years Brian Ching showed the world how to be a Dynamo.

The type of man Ching is has garnered respect from more than just players and teammates.

Coaches and players don’t always have the closest relationships, but Brian Ching and Dominic Kinnear have something special. Special enough that Kinnear got to do something so extraordinary on Friday night – play alongside Ching as his teammate for the first and last time.

In the press conference announcing the testimonial match, Kinnear sat next to Ching and had the player emotional when describing the type of person this special player was. “He’s a winner. He’s a competitor. He’s a fighter. He’s honest,” Kinnear said.

“You talk about a big goal; you talk about Brian Ching. You talk about a moment in Dynamo history; you talk about Brian Ching.”

 “There’s other people along the way that have heavily contributed to the success of this club; at the forefront has always been Brian,” Kinnear said.

After the conclusion of last night's game, Brian Ching addressed the fans that have always been there to support him and the Dynamo and thanked them for their support. The post game farewell speech went just as expected - it was honest, touching, and memorable. Ching breaking down as he thanked his mother was so genuine and heartfelt - a perfect reminder of how much of a grateful and humble man he is. 

Last night was all about Brian Ching. And rightfully so. Kinnear was correct in his comments - at the forefront, there has always been Brian.

In the coming years, Houston will likely find more heroes - but no one do as much for this organization as “Mr. Dynamo” has done.

This organization has been shaped around Brian Ching and the two will forever be linked in history.

As a player, farewell Brian. Thank you for the memories. The orange world is a better place because you were part of it.

Video | Brian Ching Says Farewell to Houston

[Photo: Anthony Vasser/Houston Dynamo]

Here are all of the videos leading up to the Brian Ching Testimonial Match on Friday, December 13. Enjoy.

Farewell Brian.

Dynamo Prepare for MLS Re-Entry Draft, Andrew Driver Deal Far Apart

[Photo: Nigel Brooks]

Later today, the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft first phase will take place. While there is a decent amount of talent in the pool, there historically isn't a large amount of action in the first round. In fact, it’s likely there isn't much to report by day’s end.

Next week (December 18), phase two will take place and the league could see much more player movement at that time.

MLS released the initial list of available players for the draft on December 9. A few players have either withdrawn or been moved ahead of the draft.

Dynamo in the Re-Entry Draft

For Houston, Bobby Boswell and Calen Carr are out of contract and available, while Cam Weaver and Michael Chabala are on the list after Houston declined their options for 2014.

According to Dynamo President Chris Canetti, all of the players will go through the Re-Entry process which means none of the players have come to an agreement with the Dynamo prior to the draft.

If any of the available players are selected, they would obviously join that respective club.

If they make it through the first round, Canetti says in regards to their future in orange: “We’ll see what happens and go from there. Each player’s situation is unique and looked at differently.”

Either way, the club is prepared for any situation.

“There are various scenarios that can take place, and we have plans for each of them,” Canetti says.

Driver Deal is Far Apart

Andrew Driver’s situation is a bit different, as he isn't eligible for the Re-Entry Draft after Houston declined his option for 2014. After joining the Dynamo on loan, Houston was able to keep the midfielder through the end of the season, but he’d have to take less money to stay in orange. Driver had a pretty successful season in Houston and will likely draw some interest abroad.

I’m told Houston has made an attempt to bring the English midfielder back.

“While we declined his option, we made an offer on a new deal,” Canetti tells me.

The door hasn’t closed on Driver’s return, but Canetti admits the two sides “are far apart.”

Dynamo Academy Alumni | Catching up with the college players

If you’re a Dynamo fanatic, I’m sure you scrounge through the team’s official website from time to time looking for things you may not be too informed on.

If you’ve ever stumbled upon the Homegrown Players link, you’ll see a list of former Dynamo Academy players that are actively in college or moved on to other parts of their career.

If you’re curious to how well these guys are performing at their respective schools, well here you go.

Here is a quick rundown of their regular season stats according to their school’s websites.

Fernando Piña – GK – Akron

Piña took full advantage of his first year starting in goal for the Zips. He played in all 18 regular season matches, and had a remarkable 0.62 GAA (12 goals conceded). He made 43 saves (.782) and had eight shutouts.

Leonardo Ayala – D – Central Florida

Ayala is a staple of the backline for the Knights, and helped the club to six shutouts in 2013. He played in 15 of the team’s 17 games, picking up 1134 minutes.

Sebastien Ibeagha – D – Duke

The Duke senior has played and started in all 19 matches for the Blue Devils in 2013, racking up 1822 minutes. Ibeagha added two goals to his account during the year as well. According to Duke’s website, Ibeagha racked up eight goals and three assists in his four seasons with the Blue Devils.

Isaiah Noriega – M/F – Duquesne

After picking up a couple starts in his freshman year, Noriega built on that in 2013. He competed in 16 matches, starting nine of them. In 2013, he scored two goals and picked up an assist.

Bryan Celis – M – Kentucky

Now in his sophomore year, Celis played in 11 games, starting each one of them. In 767 minutes, he picked up three assists on the year.

Patrick Wall – GK – Notre Dame

After splitting time in goal in his junior year, Wall started all 18 matches in 2013. He only allowed 11 goals all season (0.57 GAA), saved 83% of shots, and had eight clean sheets for the Fighting Irish.

Bradley Bourgeois – D – Tulsa

Bourgeois played in 17 matches and started all of them in 2013. He was an anchor in the Hurricanes’ backline and helped the team to six shutouts on the season.

Abe Matamoros – F/M – Tulsa

Matamoros played in all 18 matches for the Hurricanes, and started 12 of them. The sophomore grabbed two goals and an assist on the season.

Christian Camera – M – Tulsa

Camera appeared in just five matches for Tulsa, all as a substitute.

Chibuzo Odenigwe – D – North Carolina

Odenigwe played in just two matches with the Tar Heels, but started both and racked up 138 minutes. His couple years at North Carolina has seen two injuries that have limited time.

Christian Diaz – M – West Virginia

In his freshman year, Diaz played in all 18 games for the Moutaineers. He registered two goals and two assists on the season.

Alex Ochoa – D – West Virginia

Similar to Diaz, Ochoa was included in all 18 games for West Virginia as well. The defender was credited with four assists on the year and helped the team to five shutouts.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!

Will Bruin is Struggling, but the young striker is key to Dynamo success

The last two Houston Dynamo games will either be forgotten or remembered for a long time. That outcome will likely be determined by whether Houston makes the 2013 MLS Playoffs or falls on the wrong side of the red line in the Eastern Conference.

Catching up with Kandji | Following a Dream

[Photo: Mac Kandji at Kalloni FC via Facebook]

It wasn't all that long ago when Macoumba Kandji was sporting an orange jersey with his collar popped. In fact, it’s been less than a full year. Kandji last suited up for the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup on December 1 against the LA Galaxy.

Kandji came in for the injured Calen Carr and finished the match with 31 minutes as the Dynamo went on to lose 3-1. For Kandji, it was so close to a fairy tale ending for this particular chapter in his career.

Shortly after the MLS Cup, Dominic Kinnear prepared himself to retool his squad in hopes of faring better in the following season. With Carr’s injury shelving him long term, most figured Kandji would definitely be re-signed to fill the second forward spot - and to add speed to a team with a big need for it.

It turns out Mac Kandji had other plans – it was time to follow a dream.

“It was a dream of mine since I was a young boy to play in Europe; it’s just something I wanted to do,” Kandji told me this week.

After no signs of progress in negotiations with Kandji, word came that Mac informed the club of his interest in pursuing options outside Major League Soccer.

Kandji echoes that as well, telling me that he spoke to Dominic Kinnear about his European dream and the coach was understanding because he too was once a player.

With fans still curious about the speedy striker’s next move, Kinnear confirmed his exit from the Dynamo in an interview with Monica Gonzalez during the MLS SuperDraft.

In January, Kandji found himself in France on trial with Clermont Foot. Clermont is a Ligue 2 club (second division) and showed interest in signing Kandji, but negotiations broke down and shortly afterwards he was on to his next attempt (and country) to find a home.

Shortly after ending his trial in France, Kandji was linked with Kalloni F.C. from the Football League (Greek second division). Days after the initial news surfaced, the club made their new addition official with a release on their website.

“Going to Kalloni was not intended [originally],” Kandji told me. “I was negotiating to go to France and Belgium, but that didn't go through. Kalloni was a last minute thing.”

Regardless, Kandji made the most of his experience playing for a club who is based in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. In 19 appearances with the club, Kandji bagged six goals in 1477 minutes played. Not only did he contribute with goals, Kandji helped the club gain promotion to the first division and earn a spot in the Super League.

Kandji said the fans for Kalloni showed him a lot of love and appreciated his time there, even credited the club earning promotion as his best moment since leaving MLS.

Shortly after the season ended though, Kandji was on the move once again. This time he stayed in Greece and joined Levadiakos F.C., which plays in the Super League as well.

Leavadiakos will offer new challenges, and Kandji is hoping to impress with eyes on moving to bigger and better things.

“I signed a one year deal with Leavadiakos. My goal this season is to have a good half or full season and then move to a bigger club,” Kandji told me.

“Levadiakos offered me more [money] so I came here,” he added. “But my goal is not to stay in Greece. It’s just a stepping stone to go to countries like Germany and France.”

The Super League season kicked off this past weekend, and Kandji made his debut in the starting lineup and went the full 90 minutes. He didn't end up on the stat sheet in the 2-2 draw, but the striker was involved in helping his club in a number of other ways.

While Kandji has a bigger move in mind in the near future, he’s never eliminated MLS as a place he'll be again.

“I love MLS, and a return is definitely possible,” he told me.

One thing is for sure – Kandji’s American fans seem to follow his every move and wonder about his future. The 28 year old forward spent time with not only the Dynamo, but won an MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids, and spent a couple of years playing for the New York Red Bulls. Prior to MLS, he came through the ranks of the Atlanta Silverbacks in the North American Soccer League (NASL).

I asked Kandji which one of his former cities showed him the most love on social media and his response was exactly as I expected.

“Houston,” he admitted. "Colorado is not far off because of the [MLS Cup] history , but I'll have to say Houston."

It’s evident Houston still has love for Mac Kandji. Who knows what the future holds for the striker, but it appears there will always be a connection between him and Dynamo fans – even if he’s on another continent.

Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders | Game Notes

It’s been duly noted the Dynamo have a tough stretch of scheduling ahead of them – and it all starts tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium. Looking through the match notes prior to the game, here are a few things to look for tonight.

Houston is tied for second in MLS in goals allowed per game at 1.00, while Seattle is just as tough with a 1.15 GAA. With both teams boasting solid defenses, this match will likely be a low scoring affair with both teams giving little room to work with. With a couple of Seattle’s scoring options out, Will Bruin and Giles Barnes will be relied upon to capitalize on any mistakes the Sounders defense may make.

Speaking of goals against, one key to Houston’s success will be eliminating mistakes towards the end of matches. This year, Houston has given up nine goals in the final 30 minutes of the game, while the Sounders have only leaked three. The final minutes of a match in Houston typically favors the Dynamo, but nonetheless, it’s something to be concerned about.

Clint Dempsey’s addition to the Sounders is obviously fresh and he’s bound to make an offensive impact on the club as he settles in. But looking at their current roster, two notable players will be missing on Saturday night for Seattle – Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson.

Unfortunately, Martins had a death in the family and didn’t travel with the club, while Eddie Johnson is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Martins and Johnson have combined to form a deadly duo and are driving the Sounders offensive attack this year. Martins leads the Sounders in goals scored with seven, while Johnson is tied for second on the team with five goals. These two players combine for 41 percent of Seattle’s goal scoring production and 20 percent of the team’s assists. Missing both could limit their chances in Houston.

Just in case you were wondering, Seattle has the advantage (although slightly) over Houston all time with three wins, two losses, and two draws. The series is always tight and the last three games have seen one of each possible result. Houston won the only match of three played in Houston.

When it comes to current players with both clubs, Omar Cummings (2 goals) and Shalrie Joseph (3 goals) have the most success against their opponent all time. Cummings is out injured and won’t be a part of the match on Saturday, but Brad Davis will be in midfield and leads Houston with four assists in seven matches against Seattle.

A step towards another coaching milestone for Dominic Kinnear could be made tonight also. Kinnear is one win away from equaling Bob Bradley for third in MLS wins all time. Kinnear currently has 123 wins, while the manager on the other bench boasts the most wins in MLS all time. Sigi Schmid sits at the top with 182 career wins. Tonight definitely will be a coaching battle.

Finally, according to the Weather Channel, the temperature at kickoff tonight in Houston will be a hot and humid 85 degrees. The Dynamo are 24-4-11 since 2011 when the temperature is 80 degrees or more at kickoff. This is usually an advantage to the good guys as the visiting opponents usually run out of gas late in the match.

All of these topics just add to the already exciting battle between these two conference powerhouses. In a short time, Houston and Seattle have battled to some great matches and has become a bit of a cross conference rivalry. Tonight is no different as a sold out hostile crowd will welcome Seattle and their high priced DP Clint Dempsey to BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time ever.

Hope to see you there.

Dynamo vs Sounders first match in crowded stretch for Houston

This is the time of year that gets a bit tricky. Yes, the Houston Dynamo are known for late season runs in Major League Soccer. This year we hope is no different. Looking ahead though, the Dynamo have a tough task in balancing two competitions, playoff positioning, along with overcoming challenges with depth that hindered them earlier in the season.

This weekend, the Dynamo will host the Seattle Sounders and the Clint Dempsey circus. Is Clint's return huge for MLS and all that stuff? Sure. But in all honesty, he's a minor detail in this weekend's clash. This weekend's game is all about positioning - for both clubs. Both Houston and Seattle are facing similar circumstances and both clubs will be desperate for points at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Houston (9-7-6, 33 points) are currently holding on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Although they have two games in hand on the top three clubs, they're even at 22 matches played with the team directly above (Montreal Impact) and below them (Chicago Fire).

Seattle (10-7-4, 34 points) are in a bit of a tougher situation in the Western Conference. The Sounders are currently in sixth place, but the second through eighth spots in the West are separated by a mere six points. Pretty much every team in the conference is a playoff contender aside from Chivas USA.

Each upcoming match slowly becomes a must win or at least a game where a point is required, and this game is no different. For Houston, this match kicks off an extremely rough scheduling patch in which the club will be asked to balance a lot and could determine their fate in the playoff race.

Tough Road Ahead 

The upcoming stretch for Houston is extremely crowded. In 21 days, the Dynamo will play in 7 matches (average of 3 per week).

8/17 | vs Seattle Sounders
8/20 | at W Connection (CCL)
8/24 | at Montreal Impact  
8/27 | vs Arabe Unido (CCL)
9/1 | at Chicago Fire
9/4 | at Columbus Crew
9/8 | vs New York Red Bulls

Houston is heading down a rough road and it's an understatement that the team's depth and character will be tested. Not only will the Dynamo play an average of 3 games a week in the upcoming stretch, they'll also be road warriors.

Of the next seven matches, four are on the road and one of those is over 2500 miles to Trinidad and Tobago for a CONCACAF Champions League match.

We can all recall Houston getting off to a strong start to the season which suddenly came to end after a 4-0 victory over D.C. United in early May. Immediately after, the Dynamo went on to win only one game in their next nine games. During that stretch, Houston managed to score only two goals in seven league games.

Injuries and national team call ups all could be attributed to adding fuel to the fire, but this Houston club was built with depth in mind. The midfield is stacked heavily and Dominic Kinnear has continued that trend with the additional of Honduran midfielder (and designated player) Alexander Lopez.

The start of July offered new hope. The Dynamo finished the month unbeaten in four matches, collecting wins in three of the games. August started out well with a win over Columbus, but the Dynamo sputtered to a halt last week in their 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.

Sure, RSL is the MLS superlider right now - holding on to the top spot in league play and they've found themselves playing for the U.S. Open Cup championship.

But the RSL team that welcomed the Dynamo to Rio Tinto last week was tired and bruised, going winless in their three league matches prior to the game against Houston. Even so, the Dynamo couldn't find their touch - in the midfield with passing or in the final third. The match was so lacking in scoring opportunities that Giles Barnes was the only Dynamo starter that was credited with a shot on goal. Jason Johnson, who's turning into a promising attacking option for Houston, played 25 minutes and had the other two shots on goal for Houston.

Fans are hoping the RSL loss was a simple bump in the road and the team that shows up for the Dempsey circus will be the team that was on a five game unbeaten streak.

In order to survive the 21 days ahead, the Dynamo will have to prove their challenges with their varying lineups that seemed to haunt them a couple months ago are gone.

Lopez Paperwork Finalized - Will Practice Friday 

Lopez finalized all his paperwork on Thursday and will practice with the Dynamo on Friday for the first time. While technically he'll be available for selection against Seattle, his debut will likely be in Trinidad and Tobago against W Connection on August 20.

We all hope injuries don't come into play, but with World Cup qualifiers approaching in September and October, the Dynamo will have some challenges there. Both Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia would likely see time with their respective countries, and one would have to imagine a healthy Jermaine Taylor would be called by Jamaica.

Offensive Options Coming 

On the other end, there are a couple of reinforcements aside than Lopez that could add some punch to the Dynamo offense. Calen Carr, who's been out since last year's MLS Cup, is practicing again and saw himself listed as ‘questionable' on last week's injury report. Carr is expected to be available soon for selection and could add a late boost to the club's forward position. Additionally, Brian Ownby is finishing up an extremely successful season with USL PRO club Richmond Kickers. Ownby and the Kickers were crowned regular season champions on Wednesday night and will have home field advantage heading into the USL PRO playoffs. Once the playoffs are complete, Ownby is expected back in orange.

There are both challenges and positives ahead for Houston. This club and their character will be tested. The Dynamo have been known for being a team that pulls out late, gritty, get the job done results when they need it most. This year is no different and this test is no different.

Houston Dynamo Player Salaries Released

On Friday, the Major League Soccer Players Union released their second wave of player's salaries. Below you'll find the salaries of the entire Houston Dynamo team.
Over the next week or so, the numbers will be torn apart and they'll be multiple stories discussing the differences in teams and players and arguments over worth.
For now, here's your opportunity to get a look at the Dynamo salaries as of August 2013. For a full list of MLS players and teams, head over the the MLSPU website.
A couple of things that stand out:
  • Omar Cummings is the third highest paid player. As of today, he's made only six appearances for Houston and recently re-injured his knee. Dom Kinnear made a comment a few days ago he'll be out for a while. Not that type of return on that big of an investment (obviously).
  • Newest DP Alexander Lopez is on the books for $212,000 per year. That's a hefty number for the young 21 year old midfielder. He instantly has some high expectations after joining the club with the fifth highest paycheck.
  • The biggest bargains on the team appear to be Boniek Garcia ($161k), Andrew Driver ($95k), and Warren Creavalle ($46k). All three perform above the level of several other MLS players making more.
Here's a couple of things to keep in mind regarding the salaries courtesy of the MLSPU website.
In the survey, all player salaries are broken down into two numbers.  The first is the player's current base salary.  The second is characterized as annual average guaranteed compensation.  The annual average guaranteed compensation number includes a player's base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of the player's contract, including option years.  For example, if a player has a base salary of $50,000, has a two-year contract with two one-year options and received a $10,000 bonus when he signed, his average annual guaranteed compensation would be $52,500 (base salary plus signing bonus ($10,000), with the signing bonus divided by the number of years covered by the contract (4)). The average annual guaranteed compensation number also includes any annual marketing bonus to be received in the current year and any agent's fees annualized over the term of the contract. The average annual guaranteed compensation figure does not include performance bonuses because there is no guarantee that the player will hit those bonuses.
These figures include compensation from each player's contract with MLS.  They do not include any compensation from any contracts with individual teams or their affiliates.

2013 Houston Dynamo Salaries (Surveys through 8/1/13)

ClubLast NameFirst NamePosBase SalaryTotal Compensation
HOUBoniek GarciaOscarF$130,000.00$161,250.00

Give us your thoughts on the Dynamo salaries. Who is overpaid or underpaid? Who's destined for a raise at the end of the year?

Dynamo Roll Past Columbus, Keep Pace in Eastern Conference

The Houston Dynamo appear to be rolling into form in the last few weeks. After Saturday night’s win over the Columbus Crew, Houston is now unbeaten in four straight matches. If you throw in the Stoke City friendly, the Dynamo are unbeaten in five matches with four wins.

Against Columbus, the Dynamo did something they have been unable to do all year long – score in the opening minutes of the game. In fact, coming into the match, Houston was the only MLS team that had yet to score a goal in the first 15 minutes of a game this season.

Giles Barnes, who put in another solid performance for the Dynamo, drew a deserved penalty kick in the 10th minute. Brad Davis stepped up to the spot and erased that statistic with a beautiful shot into the upper corner of the goal.

Twenty minutes later, Will Bruin broke his silence. The last time Bruin scored a goal for Houston was during a 4-0 thrashing of D.C. United – a time where Houston was at the top of the East and things were good. Since that match, both Bruin and Barnes have struggled with their finishing and have been held scoreless.

Bruin’s strike in the 31st minute was executed with pure confidence. The striker received the ball from Boniek Garcia and calmly maneuvered the ball around his defender to create some space and sent in a perfectly placed shot to the far side of the net for a big 2-0 lead.

After a Kofi Sarkodie own goal put the game back in reach for the Crew, Cam Weaver added an insurance goal to put the game out of reach. Bruin tapped the ball near Weaver who sent in a rocket to the top corner of the net for his second goal in as many matches.

In an Eastern Conference that continues to get more and more crowded, the Dynamo were in need of a full three points. Some might have shrugged off the phrase “must win” but without one, Houston would have dug a hole that would have been tough to climb out of.

A Full August

August is a month that is packed full and every point will be just as vital as the next. Houston has six matches this month, including a trip to Trinidad and Tobago to face W Connection in their first test of the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League. They’ll host Arabe Unido at the end of the month in CCL action also.

In league play, Houston has two matches on the road (vs RSL next week and Montreal on the 24th) and host Seattle on August 17 – Clint Dempsey is expected to available for that match.

September Depth Challenges

While high spirits around the team’s performance is evident, there is some cause for concern when the calendar moves on to September. Houston has struggled when the lineup that faced the Crew isn’t on the pitch and September will put those challenges back in the spotlight.

In September, World Cup qualifiers will be held on the sixth and the tenth of the month and October on the eleventh and fifteenth. It’s possible at a handful of starters could miss time with their respective counties.

Brad Davis has seen time with the United States National Team, Boniek is a lock for Honduras, and now that Jermaine Taylor is healthy he could be gone with Jamaica. Tally Hall, Corey Ashe, and Will Bruin all saw time with the USMNT during the Gold Cup, but likely won't be called up for qualifiers.

Dynamo Matches Around WC Qualifiers

September 4   | at Columbus
September 8   | vs New York Red Bulls
September 14 | at Philadelphia
October 9   | vs Sporting Kansas City
October 20 | vs New York Red Bulls

September will definitely offer some familiar challenges around depth, but for now the Dynamo must concentrate on the road ahead. A tough game is coming with Real Salt Lake in the RioT which is an unfriendly place to play.

If Saturday’s offensive performance wasn't a fluke, the Dynamo could be poised to make a move this month in the standings and get away from that red line in the MLS Eastern Conference standings.

Final Thoughts

Boniek Garcia was easily the Man of the Match. In recent contests, Garcia appears to have recaptured the style of play that was evident immediately upon his arrival last year. He hasn’t had a bad year by any accounts, but also hasn’t seemed to capture the same dangerous style of play that made a huge impact on the second half of last season. Garcia was credited with an assist on two of the Dynamo goals Saturday and was creating chances for Houston all night long. Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come.

Will Bruin finally got back on track with a goal. After mishandling a nice ball from Giles Barnes early in the match, I immediately defaulted to thinking the United States National Team camp just frustrated him more. Boy was I wrong. His goal in the 31st minute was overflowing with confidence as he calmly made some space off his defender and placed the ball exactly where the keeper couldn’t reach. Bruin was a goal scoring machine last year, and if Houston makes a run in the final couple months an into the playoffs, it’ll be on his shoulders.

Cam Weaver has finally got over his inability to score in first team games. With two goals in his last two matches, Weaver looks like he is the most confident Dynamo striker out there. His attitude says the same thing as he told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday he was frustrated that after scoring last week he found himself coming off the bench.

Unfortunately for Weaver, I think he’s in the right spot and regardless of his recent form in the last couple matches and won’t be able to break into the starting lineup. Bruin and Barnes are too important to the club and when Omar Cummings is healthy he’s going to need some minutes to get fit for a playoff run.  

Jefferson Montero's emotional tribute to Christian "Chucho" Benitez and remembering his mark on the world

(Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

On Wednesday night, in a rare mid-week group of matches, Liga MX was on full display. Unfortunately, it was with heavy hearts as the first Mexican league matches were played after the unexpected death of Christian “Chucho” Benitez.

While Chucho had moved on from the Mexican league he dominated for several years, he was only gone a short time after signing for El Jaish in Qatar in early July. Benitez had just lifted the Mexican crown on May 26 with Club America – their first trophy since 2005.

His accolades and accomplishments in Mexico are impressive. He won a championship with Santos in 2008, was crowned goal scoring champion four times (2010 Apertura, 2012 Clausura, 2012 Apertura, 2013 Clausura), and named Mexico's best player twice (2008 Clausura, 2012 Apertura).

In just 79 matches with Las Aguilas, Benitez scored 52 goals. Prior to that, he scored 51 goals in 95 appearances for Santos Laguna. In between, he scored 3 goals in 30 appearances for Birmingham City in England while on a loan.

If there was anything that was guaranteed to come along with Chucho Benitez, it was goals.

From club to country, Benitez was an international superstar. At just 20 years of age, he earned a spot on the Ecuadorian National Team that competed in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He scored vital goals for the team in World Cup qualifiers, but the country failed to reach the 2010 World Cup. This time around, Benitez had four goals in qualifiers and Ecuador sits in a prime position to qualify for Brazil.

As a tribute to Benitez, no player will wear the the number 11 for Ecuador for the remainder of the World Cup qualifiers.  

Last week, after playing his first match with his new club in Qatar (highlights below), Benitez was taken to the hospital for severe stomach pains and not long after his short lived 27 years of life were over.

There are no real reasons why and no real answers for all the questions. But if there is one thing that’s evident and clear – it's simply that Chucho left behind a legacy that stretches across borders, teams, and leagues.

A tremendous outpouring of support for Benitez’s family has come from all over, including the United States, England, Qatar, Ecuador, and Mexico.  

In one Liga MX match held on Wednesday, a fellow countryman and friend of Benitez, perhaps had one of the most emotional displays of honoring a fallen player’s life we'll ever see.

Jefferson Montero, who joined Morelia in June of 2012, is off to a strong start to the young season. Coming into last night’s match, Montero was tied for the goal scoring lead with Angel Reyna.

In the 61st minute, Montero got a step on his defender and slipped a ball past the keeper at a nearly impossible angle to add another goal to his name. This one was likely the most important he'll score in his career. Immediately following the goal, he removed his jersey to reveal a shirt with Benitez’ photo on it and “Chucho 11” on the back.

In most celebrations, there may be an act of pointing into the sky or kissing the shirt, but Montero was so overwhelmed he couldn't contain his tears and fell to the ground overwhelmed in emotion. His teammates had to help him to his feet after staying on the pitch for a nearly 20 seconds.

Once on his feet, Montero respectfully accepted his yellow card for removing his jersey and was still incredibly emotional as the two sides got ready to continue play. What an incredible photo courtesy of Cancha. 

In addition to Montero, Raul Jimenez held up an 11 with his hands after scoring for Club America, and his former team will honor him during their home match this upcoming weekend. In fact, I've read they are offering tickets for only 20 pesos to ensure a packed Estadio Azteca (100,000+ fans).

Here are some other photos of support for Christian "Chucho" Benitez and his family that have shown up on Twitter recently.

Birmingham City, his former club, put up this tribute video on YouTube.

Here's another YouTube video tribute.

Just hours before his death, Benitez did play in Qatar in what will be his final performance on the soccer pitch. Here is footage of what is the final time we will see Chucho's exciting, energetic style of play.

Finally, today Christian Benitez began his final journey home to Ecuador from Qatar. His club, El Jaish posted these pictures on their Twitter account along with more on Facebook.

In their friendly match they are playing today (Thursday), the team unveiled this banner prior to the match to remember and honor their teammate.

Note: Yes his last name is misspelled, but I'm sure the team is preoccupied with comforting his family in this tough time and while unfortunate, just an accident. 

Rest in peace Christian.

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