If you’re like me, you were a bit nervous when the Dynamo/Hounds affiliation story broke yesterday. MLS / USL Pro affiliations are a bit of a black box. It’s easy to point at Orlando and see success. However, one can just as easily argue that Rochester’s affiliation with New England was an abject failure. What I have come to understand is that there was a very big difference between the two affiliations. I can sum that up with the phrase “creative control”. You see, the rumor mill has it that Rochester signed an agreement packed with rules and regulations which handcuffed their coaching staff to the point where specific players had to dress for a number of games. Orlando on the other hand had the final say on who dressed and who played. There is very little framework in place to regulate these affiliations and each affiliation is negotiated independently between the clubs.
Now, on to our journey…
Surprisingly, it was Houston who reached out to MLS and then to the Hounds to discuss a potential agreement. At the time, the Riverhounds had no plans to pursue an affiliation and were comfortably going about their off-season business. Things were about to change. Two weeks ago, a delegation from Houston flew up to Pittsburgh and the two sides met. From what I understand the meeting was short and sweet. Both clubs were in agreement with the details to be hammered out over the winter. The interesting part was that during the initial meeting, Justin Evans sat down with Houston’s manager Dom Kinnear and asked him about his expectations regarding the deal. Kinear’s answer was simple and to the point: You manage your team and I’ll manage my team. This is truly a win-win for the squad. Talented players are going to come in hungry and looking to impress. This can lead to increased competition at all positions forcing players to work harder to earn the shirt. There are no guarantees and Evans won’t be forced to play anyone. Justin loves the flexibility and depth but also understands that it makes his job a bit more difficult…in a good way.
Great, right? Sure! However, it sparked my curiosity further…what is Houston getting out of this deal? Houston’s president Chris Canetti was very open and explained the following: Basically it gives Houston a place where their young talent can get games. Houston has been disappointed in the MLS Reserve league for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest is that the games flat out don’t matter. It’s tough for players to get up for those games. It’s tough for a guy who just played 20 minutes in front of 22k people on a Saturday night to strap the boots back on the next morning in front of 200 people. The USL Pro provides the opportunity to get meaningful minutes to those players who are out on loan. Minutes in front of enthusiastic fans where the results matter. In that respect, Pittsburgh will be a much better atmosphere to develop talent.
Which brings me to the juicy stuff…who can we expect to see next season from the Dynamo? As Jason explained it, Houston is a veteran-heavy MLS team. Kinnear likes to field a veteran lineup and break in young talent slowly. We’re going to see young, high pedigree talent who would be better off getting minutes here than they would be in the reserves. A few names were tossed around but nothing is set in stone. A keeper was mentioned as something the Hounds would like to receive to push our current group.
I also got a chance to converse with my buddy John Rotz. John is like the forgotten guy but he contributes so much to the organization. We talked about the front office, the expanding staff and short term plans. He gave me a quick tour of their new offices (Kutney’s corner office is pimped out) and mentioned that the store will be open and stocked for next Tuesday night’s Holiday Party. All positive stuff and more signs that things are moving in the right direction.
Finally, for those of you who enjoy the nuts and bolts, I’ll list a few things that gaffer “may or may not have mentioned” in terms of the squad. He’s looking to employ a 4-1-3-2 or a 4-1-4-1. Seamon is still under contract and expected back and fit. Same with Arteaga. Kerr, Gilstrap, Marshall and Vincent are all locked up for next season too. Sadly, Darren Amoo will not be back (one of my personal favorites for sure, but an enigma who didn’t quite put in the work required to stick around). Motagalvan is also exploring other options and may not return. They are looking to re-sign Blum for 2014.
PS – When I met Chris we exchanged scarves. He had a lot of good things to say about Houston’s 4 unique supporter’s groups and knew a lot about each of them. He is looking to help grow and cultivate those groups as he sees the long-term benefits of a strong supporter’s culture. However, the morning was not all smiles and rainbows…Kutney stole my new Dynamo scarf for photo ops. I guess it’s a small price to pay!
We’re excited too #DERO