The Houston Dynamo lost an integral player when Geoff Cameron transferred to Stoke City this August, but the club made up for his loss to reach the MLS Cup final again.
Instead of falling by the wayside in the aftermath of losing the U.S. national team center back, though, the Dynamo persevered. With a crew of players stepping into roles and changing the complexion of the team, Houston managed to reclimb the Eastern Conference ladder to reach MLS Cup for the second straight year, and fourth time in seven years.
"You knew it was going to be a big blow, but then again, the one area of depth that we had in preseason was in the back, in defense," Dynamo coach Dom Kinnear said. "Especially in the middle, you had Bobby [Boswell], Jermaine [Taylor], Andre [Hainult] and Geoff.
Taylor, a Jamaican international, stepped into the void in central defense. Ricardo Clark, a former Dynamo standout who returned to the club after a couple of frustrating seasons abroad, transitioned back into the club's central midfield, where the versatile Cameron also spent some time. Honduran winger Oscar Boniek Garcia brought a new dynamic into the attack. The three helped Houston manage to do what can be the toughest task for a team to accomplish: Overcome a major personnel loss during a season and not skip a beat.
"You want [Cameron] to stay, because he makes your team better, but you can understand why we wanted to let him go, too," Kinnear said. "It was good for our team, and it was good for Geoff. In saying that, [Oscar Boniek Garcia] came in just before Geoff had left, and then with the addition of Ricardo, it definitely softens the blow.
"I think, for me, Jermaine Taylor has been very underrated this year. I think he's had a great season for us. We've played him at every position across the back four, and then with Geoff leaving, that kind of cemented him into the back in the middle next to Bobby. When someone leaves it gives someone else an opportunity to play, and it's all up to them and I think Jermaine has done more than a credible job in the middle of defense in there."
It did not take the Dynamo long to adjust to Cameron's departure. After a 4-0 victory over D.C. United in Cameron's final game with the club -- which was arguably his best showing of the season -- Houston won its next four matches to recalibrate ahead of the stretch run. The club stumbled a bit to the finish line and got into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but contributions from its different pieces proved capable of filling the shoes of the Stoke City starting XI stalwart.
"I think the No. 1 factor is the depth we had coming off the bench to replace Geoff Cameron," Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall said. "We have depth. The reserve league shows that we have guys that can come on and do well. Geoff is obviously a national team player, plays in the EPL now and he's good, but we're still a good team.
"We lost him and then we went on one of our best runs of the season. I think the team knew that just because you don't have a player of that caliber you have to still play well, perform well, fight for each other, and that's what we did."
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