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First scrimmage of 2019 readies Houston Dynamo for fast-approaching CCL opener

Alberth Elis dribbling ball
Alberth Elis was the lone goal scorer in 60 minutes of scrimmage play between the Houston Dynamo and RGV FC Toros in a January 26, 2019 "open practice" event at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Photo courtesy Houston Dynamo)

Thanks to a scrimmage on Saturday night pitting the Houston Dynamo against its USL Championship hybrid affiliate team, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, the squad reports feeling more prepared to take on the upcoming MLS season as well as the more pressing, immediate concern — the Concacaf Champions League play that looms just three weeks away. 

“It was a beautiful practice,” said Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera of Saturday’s event before about 3,000 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium, remarking on what he termed “the opportunity to practice at the stadium with the new additions, players and also with the new players from RGV FC – sharing with our fans and enjoying the stadium.”

He added, “It is really important for us and our preparation for this season to be connected. It is really important for them to feel that, because now they are going to have the experience. When we come back it won’t be the first time. It was good and now we continue our preparation, we continue our preseason because we have to be ready for February 19 and our first game in Guatemala.” 

That match, against CD Guastatoya, is the first of a home-and-away leg opening CCL play for the Dynamo, who qualified for the 2019 tournament via their 2018 U.S. Open Cup win. The Guatemalan side will come to Houston on February 26; the aggregate winner of those two matches will go on to face the winner of the Tigres UANL-Deportivo Saprissa series in the quarterfinals March 5 and 7. 

Those matches, plus a home opener in the 2019 MLS campaign on March 2 against Real Salt Lake, means that Saturday’s match kicked off what might feel like a too-short preseason. 

“It felt good,” defender DaMarcus Beasley said of Saturday’s play. “Obviously, we’ve been training for two weeks with the boys, so it’s good to face a real opponent. We’ve got a game in a little over three weeks, so it’s good to play 11 v. 11 against a different opponent and different faces, get a good run out, and get some fitness in.” 

Rather than play a full, traditional 90-minute match, the Open Practice allowed the Dynamo to scrimmage against RGV FC for two 30-minute periods, with a 30-minute intrasquad scrimmage between RGV FC sides, with young Dynamo first-team players distributed among them, finishing out the evening. 

In the first 30-minute match, Dynamo forward Alberth Elis scored the lone goal on a 24th-minute counter attack initiated by A.J. DeLaGarza. Elis had a chance to score much earlier in the scrimmage, but his 3rd-minute penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Tyler Deric, who played for RGV FC in that first period. 

The second 30-minute match finished in a scoreless draw, though the Dynamo did combine for 10 shots (with five on goal) in their 60 minutes of play. 

Beasley was optimistic, if a bit cautious, in gauging the team’s fortunes in 2019.

“Obviously we want to finish each tournament as best we can,” he said. “It’s easy to say you want to win everything; that’s the easy thing to say, but we’re going to take every tournament as it comes. Like I said, we want to finish in the best possible way in each tournament. We take each tournament with the same importance, and I think you’ve seen that with the offseason moves that we’ve made.” 

“They’ve made some good additions to the team, and they’re going to help us,” he added. “I think we’ve got a lot more depth this year to give some break time for the three up top. It’s all for the taking, but we have to approach each game with the same mentality, and that mentality is to win. Obviously we may not win every single game, but at the same time, to have that mentality with how we go out and set up as a team, we’re going to put our best foot forward and hopefully that will result into a win.” 

The Dynamo resume their preseason Tuesday morning with another scrimmage against their affiliate at Houston Sports Park, and will square off against Minnesota United FC, the Seattle Sounders, and Sporting Kansas City in a Tucson-hosted preseason tournament between February 6 and 13. 

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