Houston Comets 2012/13 Season Preview
Their first year in the North American Champions League should prove a challenging one for Houston’s other team. Levi McKinnon has guided his squad up through the North American pyramid very quickly, but just holding steady in the middle of the pack this year would be seen as a great achievement.
Numbers in parentheses are the players’ League and Cup appearances for the Comets followed, for position players, by their total goals scored as well as any national caps.
Graham McSweeney (27, 12 shutouts, 5 Irish youth caps) will be the unquestioned first choice in goal. Barely 20, the Irish youth team member looks set for a long career, although he will probably at some point outgrow the Comets’ wallet. He will be backed up by Julien Latendresse-Lévesque (2 Canada youth caps), better known as JiLL (a nickname he detests), who has yet to make a first team appearance for the Comets.
Andy Iro (38; 0) and Robert Flitcroft (84; 3) will hold down the center of the defense for the Comets. They will be backed up by Ralph Murphy (67; 9) and the nineteen year old loanee from the Houston Dynamo, Steven Reyes. Michael Nsien (118; 6) and Gianmarco De Carlo (91; 4), who have been key components of the Comets’ short history, find themselves on the fringes for this season.
Spanish import Manuel Micó (32; 1) has yet to really look comfortable in Houston’s red and black, but he retains his starting spot at least for the start of the season. On the other side of the field, Simon Booth (113; 1) gets the provisional nod, over both Kevin Friedland (114; 4) and Buster Raphael (15; 1; 5 DR Congo youth caps), but the four will probably prove a very fluid rotation.
Raphael is beginning to get international attention, and his future most likely lies outside of North America. One of his countrymen, Chiró N’Toko (2 DR Congo caps) has been offered a trial with the Comets but whether he will be signed is yet to be seen.
Yuma (35; 0), another Spanish import, holds down the starting job, with Alioune Gueye (88; 3) serving as his understudy. The solid play of this duo has made Cy Tolliver (79; 1; 8 Tanzania caps) expendable, especially with the Comets securing versatile teen Dave Crabb on loan from the New York Red Bulls.
Matt Richardson (122; 15), as he has since day one, holds down the starting position on the right side of the field, with shock loan signing Brad Davis (3 USA caps) stepping right into the starting slot on the left. Callum Ramos, on loan from Philadelphia, will fill in on the outside, along with new signings Gerson Mayen (2 USA youth caps) and Gabe Gala (7 Canada caps).
While Jairo (33; 7) has been designated the starter, Stanton Lewis (24; 5) will push the Spaniard for playing time throughout the season. The two offer different skills: Jairo is a provider, drifting into space outside of the box and setting up the forwards while Lewis is more of an attacking player, using his superb ball skills to put himself in dangerous positions. Both Mouhcine Iajour (43; 3; 1 Morocco youth cap) and Leonel Saint-Preux (91; 17; 18 Haiti caps) could have been listed as wide midfielders above or strikers below: both will see plenty of the field through their versatility. Olympic Lyonnais loanee Mongo Beti (7 Cameroon caps) will also see time here.
Once again, the Comets rely on a pair of Burkinabe strikers as starters, with both Aristide Bancé (38; 21; 16 Burkina Faso caps) and Pierre Koulibaly (35; 15; 2 Burkina Faso caps) returning for the season. Tomas Pekhart (25; 16; 25 Czech youth caps) will be the first choice replacement, but with Pekhart’s history of injury, there should be plenty of action for Lance Miller (107; 33) and two loanees from the Dynamo, Felix Garcia (43; 21; 1 USA youth cap), who is making his second appearance with the Comets, and Adán Ramírez. The challenge for McKinnon will be finding time for sixteen year old Matty Dombrowski and the Canadian Le Li (8; 4), who looks to have outgrown the reserves.
There have been quite a few European clubs sniffing around Miller and the prospect of losing the brilliant young forward is of concern for the Comets.
Other than Raphael, Dombrowski, and Miller, the highest ceiling youth players are probably midfielders Mamdou Diallo (1; 1 Guinea youth cap) and Michael Ciabattoni (1); however both are running out of time to make good on their potential.