From the first year that the Dynamo moved to Houston, you always knew what you were getting from the team: organized, committed defending and a late run through the playoffs thanks to Dominic Kinnear's brilliance. Then last season, everything changed. Kinnear left the club and for the first time ever, someone new managed the Dynamo. In came Owen Coyle from England, and things didn't go so swimmingly. Houston missed out on the playoffs, playing generally dismal soccer, and now the club head into 2016 still in search of a new identity. What's in store for them this season?
1. Who will be the face of the club?
When Kinnear left Houston, it was a shock. It wasn't a surprise, but seeing the Dynamo managed by anyone else was unsettling. But at least they had Brad Davis, a man who had spent a decade in Dynamo orange. Unfortunately, he has now departed as well -- heading to Sporting Kansas City -- and it's not clear who the leader of the team is. Ricardo Clark has been around and is a fixture in Houston, but he's never been a star. DaMarcus Beasley certainly has national credibility and will be asked to take on a bigger role, and Will Bruin is a constant, but there is no clear face of the club. Everything is changing in Houston and someone has to step out in front.
2. Will Cubo Torres please stand up
Erick "Cubo" Torres was a star in Chivas USA's final season, scoring 15 goals in the club's final season. When the Dynamo signed him, it was considered a big coup. But his time with in Houston last season was an unmitigated disaster. He made just three starts after joining the club in the second half of the season -- he was on a six-month loan with Chivas Guadalajara to start the year -- and failed to score in 11 total appearances. The Mexican was supposed to be a difference-maker, but was a dud instead. If the Dynamo are going to work their way back into the playoffs in 2016, they are going to need the Cubo that Chivas USA got in 2014.
3. Houston need to start fast
Some teams in MLS have made a habit of starting slowly, spending a few months of the season trying to figure out what they have and then turning it on late to set themselves up for a deep run in the playoffs. The Dynamo used to be one of those teams, but they can't afford to take that approach anymore. They aren't good enough to dig themselves out of an early-season hole, and the Western Conference is too deep to think that it's possible to pull off such a feat. Houston will have to be markedly better than they were a season ago if they want to return to the postseason, and that will have to start in March. They don't have any time to waste.