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Houston Dynamo aim to prove last season was no fluke

The Houston Dynamo look to improve on last season's surprise run to the Western Conference Finals (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

The Houston Dynamo were the surprise of the 2017 Major League Soccer season as they returned to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2012. Better yet, it came on the heels of three tumultuous seasons in which Houston missed the playoffs.  

Heading into the 2018 MLS preseason, the Dynamo picked up where they left off. Houston went unbeaten in preseason regulation play for the second consecutive season. The team spent the past two weeks in Tucson, Ariz., where it competed in the 2018 Mini Sun Cup. It reached the final but fell to the New England Revolution in penalties 4-3.

In each game, coach Wilmer Cabrera deployed numerous lineups and used the matches to incorporate new players — Arturo Álvarez, Darwin Cerén and Alejandro Fuenmayor —  to the returning core group.

As the Dynamo embark on season 2 under Cabrera, the team knows it won’t be able to surprise teams like it did last year.

Houston Dynamo face attacking powerhouse Atlanta United in 2018 debut

When: March 3, 2:30 p.m.

Where: BBVA Compass Stadium

Broadcast: TV — Univision-Check local TV listings; RADIO — 610 AM (KILT), 1010 AM (KLAT Spanish)

Live Stream: MLS Live

The Buzz: All eyes would have been on Atlanta United attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco, the splashiest offseason signing in MLS and costliest at a $15 million transfer fee, as he would have made his MLS debut. But Wednesday morning news dropped that Barco will miss 4-6 weeks with a right quad injury. Despite Barco’s absence, Atlanta still poses a dangerous threat on the pitch, and they proved that last season when its offense generated 70 goals.

Not to be outdone, the Dynamo, under first-year head coach Wilmer Cabrera, La Naranja employed a quick and deadly counter-attacking playing style that resulted in 57 goals on the season. The Dynamo were especially lethal at home where they averaged 2.5 goals per game. With two high-powered offenses,  all signs point to Saturday’s game being a high scoring affair.

Other Key Matches

June 23 at Sporting Kansas City – There’s no love lost between the Houston Dynamo and Sporting KC. The two clubs have tangled in the playoffs seven times, including last season where the Dynamo knocked SKC out of the playoffs, and while most rivalries are geographical base, this one was born on the pitch. 

July 28 at Portland Timbers – This will be the first matchup between the two sides that tangled in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Timbers had high hopes of reaching the Western Conference Finals and tangling with their nemesis the Seattle Sounders but the Dynamo derailed those dreams.

August 23 vs. FC Dallas and September 1 at FC Dallas – The Texas Derby gets decided in this two-legged matchup. This will be the second and third times the two Texans teams do battle on the pitch and the winner will take home El Capitan, a replica 18th-century mountain howitzer cannon. 

October 6 at Seattle Sounders – En route to their second consecutive MLS Cup appearance the Sounders dismantled the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Finals and this will be the first time the two sides meet since that series. 

Check out the full 2018 schedule here.

Quotes and Notes

Defender DaMarcus Beasley on the Dynamo roster: 

“We got a lot of guys that came back this year. It just shows that the coaching staff and the backroom staff trusts the players. In the past, we changed eight, nine or ten players and it’s hard to build a team like that”

Dynamo Vice President and General Manager Matt Jordan on the importance of acquiring Elis on a full transfer and the diverse attacking option on the team:

“Alberth Elis is a very important part of the team. As is all of our attackers. You look at Mauro Manotas, Andrew Wenger, Romell Quioto…our draft picks have come in and done well, [like] Mac Steeves. We’ve got a diverse attack. We have a diverse team and we also have a diverse attack with a lot of players that have a lot of different qualities. You see it even with Tomas [Martinez], Arturo [Álvarez] and Memo [Rodriguez] is really growing. Our attack is diverse just like our team.”

Head coach Wilmer Cabrera on the season’s expectation and the new players:

“We know the responsibilities that we have in front of us. The goals are not less than last year. The goals are high. The bars [are set] really high in all aspects. We understand that. And understanding that, that’s the way we’ve been working from the first day of the season. The new players are adapting very well and they fit very well into our culture. They work hard. They’re very humble. And no one believes that they’re a superstar.”

The only injury of note is defender A.J. DeLaGarza who is still rehabbing from torn ACL in his left knee. DeLaGarza suffered the injury in the last game of the 2017 season. 

Biggest offseason moves

  • Acquired forward Alberth Elis and midfielders Juan David Cabezas on a full transfer after both players were on loan the last season. 
  • Traded for midfielders Álvarez and Cerén, who are mainstays with the El Salvadorean National Team. 
  • Signed ‘keeper Chris Seitz from in-state rival FC Dallas. 
  • Sold Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres to Liga MX side Pumas UNAM which frees up a Designated Player spot for Houston. 

Roster breakdown

Forwards – Mauro Manotas, 22; Alberth Elis, 22; Romell Quioto, 26; Andrew Wenger, 27.

Midfielders – Eric Alexander, 29; Arturo Álvarez, 32; Eric Bird, 24, Juan David Cabezas, 27; Darwin Cerén, 28; Boniek García, 33; Tomás Martinez, 22; Memo Rodriguez, 22; Charlie Ward, 23.

Defenders – DaMarcus Beasley, 35; A.J. DeLaGarza, 30; Alejandro Fuenmayor, 21; Kevin Garcia, 27; Adolfo Machado, 33; George Malki, 25; Dylan Remick, 26; Leonardo, 30; Philippe Senderos, 33.

See the full roster details here.

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