Seven weeks after dropping a second MLS Cup Final to the LA Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo are back out on the pitch, gearing up for the 2013 season. The preseason will be busy for the Dynamo, but there is not a lot of turnover on this Dynamo roster, and having familiarity around the locker room will be key for head coach Dominic Kinnear, who has just 40 days to prepare before the start of competition.
"As we enter preseason here, it's a pretty busy schedule," Kinnear said after the team's first training session of the year. "We're gearing up not only for the league, but for two CONCACAF competitions, one early in the season -- which we hope extends throughout the year -- and then the CONCACAF Champions League tournament later on."
The first game of the MLS regular season is on March 2 against DC United at BBVA Compass Stadium. Three days later, they'll host Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna in the first of two meetings for their CCL quarterfinal round.
The games in March, however, are far from defender Bobby Boswell's mind.
"I think first day we're just getting back into it," Boswell said. "I know the coaching staff will get us ready as time comes."
The Dynamo were short four players Monday. Tally Hall, Brad Davis and Will Bruin are training with the U.S. Men's National Team, each hoping to make Jürgen Klinsmann's squad that comes to town next week for the U.S.'s friendly match against Canada. Boniek Garcia is also away on national team duty as Honduras gears up for its FIFA World Cup Qualifying run.
Even with those key absences, there's no shortage of talent on the pitch. Back is team leader Brian Ching, who decided to return for the 2013 season. The Dynamo also added defender Eric Brunner as well as veteran forward Omar Cummings.
"[Cummings is] just a handful," said Corey Ashe, who's had to defend the veteran on various occasions. "He's a good finisher with both feet -- left and right. He's proven obviously with Colorado that he's a threat. I'm definitely looking forward to having him up to top and having him be productive for us."
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The one thing that makes Kinnear's job easy during training camp is the maturity of his squad. Coaching this Dynamo team is a major reason why he "loves his job."
"It's not a treat every day, don't get me wrong; I'm not skipping through the halls and saying I have the best job in the world," Kinnear said. "But I look at the level of maturity I have down the hallway, and it makes it an easy group to manage because one, they're good players; two, they're good people; and, I think, three, they're very motivated to win. That's what you have to have in the locker room to be successful; that's the reason this team has been successful for as long as it has."
As always, though, getting into the post-season dance is the main goal for Kinnear and the Dynamo.
"Making the playoffs is the number one goal; that's no different," Kinnear said. "It gives us a chance to try and win a championship. We've come up very close the last couple of years, and hopefully 2013 will be the year for us to not only win a conference but to win an MLS Cup."