Houston hasn't won a match since mid-May, but will be hoping the U.S. veteran can provide the spark necessary to help the Dynamo climb back into the Eastern playoff race.DaMarcus Beasley may not be the same speedy threat he left Major League Soccer as when he moved from the Chicago Fire to Dutch power PSV Eindhoven a decade ago, but the Houston Dynamo are banking on the 32-year-old U.S. national team standout being the spark they need to revive a season that has largely been one big disappointment.
Houston’s 2014 demise has been one of the more surprising developments of the current MLS season. Not that the Dynamo stood as a title contender before the season began, but a team just a year removed from consecutive MLS Cup appearances isn’t expected to be languishing just one step out of the conference basement.
Dominic Kinnear’s side is mired in an eight-match winless slide that has seen Houston manage just two points since mid-May, with the team’s last victory coming before Beasley had even reported for the U.S. pre-World Cup camp. While Beasley was in Brazil turning back the clock by starring in his fourth World Cup, Houston was having its defense battered, and to make matters worse, was beaten badly by struggling sides like San Jose and Montreal.
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Enter Beasley, who answered any questions about whether he still had something left to give by being one of the U.S. team’s top players in Brazil. His effort in the team’s tournament-ending loss to Belgium was arguably his best World Cup match ever, and it had to give the Dynamo confidence that he just might be the kind of impact player who could help Houston snap out of its current funk.
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“What draws us to wanting him is that he’s a good player and makes our team better,” Kinnear told media of Beasley’s acquisition. “Longevity and consistency are two of his main traits. When you look at him, you have the feeling he can play a couple of more years.”
It will now be up to Kinnear to fit together the best collection of left-footed players in MLS. With Brad Davis and Corey Ashe already on the squad, Kinnear could choose to play Davis in a more central role, while allowing Ashe and Beasley to work in tandem as a speedy and interchangeable left-wing combo.
With Davis and Boniek Garcia back from the World Cup, and Beasley providing a boost, the Dynamo attack should have more punch, and Houston will be hoping that World Cup trio can also help ease some of the burden on a defense that has allowed the most goals in MLS (six more than the next team at the bottom of the list).
Houston has a week off from MLS action, which should give Beasley some time to work on his fitness, but things won't be easy for the Dynamo's newest designated player when league action resumes. Up next for Houston is surging D.C. United, followed by a visit to MLS-leading Seattle.
Things ease off after that, though, with the Dynamo closing out the regular season with 12 matches against Eastern Conference opponents. Only three of those matches will come against teams currently sporting winning records, which means Houston will have every opportunity to jump back into the playoff race, and Dynamo officials will be banking on Beasley to help make that happen.
As Beasley showed us in Brazil, he still has the speed, instincts and experience to be a strong left-sided player. With the Dynamo sitting just four points out of a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference, Beasley just might be the player Kinnear needs to keep Houston from missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
MLS WEEKEND WATCH LIST
Game of the Week- Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy. The Sounders have built up a nice six-point cushion atop the West, and could push the Galaxy out of a playoff spot with a victory at CenturyLink Field.
Matchup of the Week- Matt Besler vs. Jermain Defoe. As intriguing as Landon Donovan’s clash with Osvaldo Alonso will be in Seattle, we will have our eye on Besler’s visit to Toronto as he plays his second match since signing a new designated player contract. He will face a stiff test from Defoe, who has scored in six of his past nine starts for TFC.
Player With a Point to Prove- Dom Dwyer. As much as the Sporting KC striker was gracious about being snubbed for the MLS All-Star Game, you know he’s eager to get out and show why he deserved a place in the midseason showcase. What better place to do just that than in Toronto, playing across from Defoe, one of the forwards who was chosen ahead of him.