Major League Soccer

Houston Dynamo 2022 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

Chris Smith
The Dynamo are trying to turn their fortunes around.
The Dynamo are trying to turn their fortunes around. /

After years of underperformance, the Houston Dynamo are looking to make a splash in 2022.

El Naranja have qualified for the Playoffs just once in their last eight seasons as part of a rapid decline following the glory days of the mid-noughties.

But the Dynamo have a new general manager in Pat Onstad, with Paulo Nagamura replacing Tab Ramos in the dugout. Investment is coming and optimism renewed.

So, here's everything you need to know about the Houston Dynamo ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

How did Houston Dynamo perform in 2021?

2021 was another unmitigated disaster for the Houston Dynamo, who finished bottom of the Western Conference even below newly-formed Texas rivals Austin FC.

Attendances were down and goals were in short supply - at the right end of the pitch, at least - ultimately resulting in the club parting ways with head coach Tab Ramos.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to start the revival. It really can't get any worse than 2021 for the Houston Dynamo, but the club's staff overhaul and a record-breaking transfer have turned this into a winter of optimism.

Houston Dynamo transfer activity

Transfers in

  • Sebastian Ferreira (from Libertad, $4.3m)
  • Zeca (from Vasco de Gama, free transfer)
  • Steve Clark (from Portland Timbers, free transfer)
  • Brooklyn Raines (from Barca Academy, free transfer)
  • Thor Ulfarsson (SuperDraft)
  • Arturo Ordonez (SuperDraft)
  • Paulo Lima (SuperDraft)
  • Daniel Steres (from LA Galaxy, Undisc.)

Transfers out

  • Ariel Lassiter (to Inter Miami, $50k)
  • Maximilliano Urruti (to Austin FC, free transfer)
  • Marko Maric (to Atromitos, free transfer)
  • Jose Bizama (to Palestino, free transfer)
  • Alejandro Fuenmayor (to Oakland Roots, free transfer)
  • Kyle Morton (to Louisville City, free transfer)
  • Boniek Garcia (to CD Olimpia, free transfer)
  • Mateo Bajamich (to Huracan, free transfer)
  • Erik McCue (released)
  • Maynor Figueroa (released)

Paulo Nagamura: Tactics and style of play

At just 38 years old, Nagamura is an incredibly young head coach, with his only experience in charge of a team so far coming with Sporting Kansas City II. During an interview back in January, Nagamura admitted he had little tactical freedom in that role, where his purpose was to serve the needs of senior head coach Peter Vermes and maintain SKC's identity at all levels.

But he did also reveal his preferred style is based around positional play. So, expect the Dynamo to try and dominate possession to both pull the opposition out of shape and set themselves in case they lose the ball. They'll try to be aggressive when winning the ball back, too.

Whether or not Nagamura can really pull off positional play in his first year with a new group of players remains to be seen, but we can at least expect some more fun from the Dynamo.

Houston Dynamo predicted XI (4-3-3): Clark; Valentin, Hadebe, Parker, Lundqvist; Vera, Carrasquilla, Jones; Baird, Ferreira, Picault.

Who are Houston Dynamo's key players?

Sebastian Ferreira

As their club-record signing, Sebastian Ferreira is under immense pressure to deliver the goods for the Houston Dynamo this season. His new side have been desperately short of goals over the past few years but the Paraguayan comes with a good track record.

In 2021 alone, Ferreira scored 14 goals in 39 appearances across all competitions - including two in four Copa Libertadores outings - winning the Paraguayan Apertura with Libertad. He twice won the Golden Boot during his time there.

Ferreira is quick across the ground, smart with his movement, and an instinctive finisher. He has all the ingredients to be the traditional No.9 the Dynamo have craved, but can they give him enough service?

Fafa Picault

One of the very few shining lights during the Dynamo's 2021 season was Fafa Picault. The forward ended the campaign with 11 goals and four assists in 31 MLS appearances while, curiously, he scored in five of his six Texas Derby clashes against FC Dallas and Austin FC.

At 30, Picault will probably lose a yard of pace soon, but not quite yet. He still has it in the tank to beat a defender one-on-one and has always shown himself to be pretty clinical in front of goal.

It'll be his job to supplement Ferreira's goal tally and make sure the Paraguayan doesn't shoulder all the burden.

Matias Vera

Nagamura's new style of play is going to require a lot of flexibility from the Dynamo roster, especially the midfielders. Matias Vera is about as versatile as they come.

The Argentine - now entering his fourth year with the club - is well capable as a No.6, 8 or 10 and will fulfil different roles depending on who he lines up alongside.

He can offer mobility if the veteran Darwin Quintero is brought in for his creativity. Or he can burst forward if more pragmatic options are preferred.

Vera might well become Nagamura's man for all occasions in 2022.

Houston Dynamo 2022 season prediction

Optimism is about as high as it's been in Houston for a very long time. The signing of Ferreira is impressive and the club are making smart moves.

But make no mistake, there is still so much more to fix with this roster and the club as a whole. Big gaps need filling, and the supporters need inspiring back into the stadium.

Nagamura should at least make things entertaining enough on the field to start fixing the latter. And we don't expect the Dynamo to prop up the Western Conference again, either. But don't bank on a Playoff run.

Prediction: 12th in the Western Conference