On Wednesday, the Houston Dynamo officially announced the signing of Bryan Salazar, an 18 year old member of the Dynamo Academy. Salazar will become the fifth player Houston has signed through their academy program.
News of the Dynamo's interest started to spread on Tuesday, and reports later in the afternoon confirmed Salazar was in discussions to make the jump to the first team. Less than a day later, Chris Canetti, Dominic Kinnear, and James Clarkson introduced the high school senior to the media and the young forward signed his MLS contract in front of everyone.
Salazar's signing is a feel good moment for the Dynamo, the player, and especially the academy. While Salazar is the fifth homegrown signing for the Dynamo, he is the first to progress through every level of the academy program. He started in the Junior Academy and now has made it to the highest level a player could aspire to reach - a professional athlete.
Wednesday also marked the six year anniversary of the Dynamo Academy. A fitting anniversary considering Salazar was there for the first practice.
It isn't often an 18 year old high school senior is offered a professional contract. The fact that Dominic Kinnear saw enough in Salazar's development and skill at this stage of his career is a huge boost of confidence for the kid and speaks volume of his potential.
If you check out this video of Salazar's highlights, you can quickly see the winger has some great skill on the ball and he's fearless of defenders.
Here are a couple of my favorites - I recommend watching the timer for these gems.
0:27 - Watch Salazar's first touch as he knocks the ball around the defender and is off to the races. He turns another defender before firing a shot high so the keeper can't reach it, right into the back of the net.
0:52 - Salazar shows his speed, explosiveness, and ball control as he drives towards goal while keeping possession through a sliding tackle. His shot is perfectly placed around the keeper's reach for a goal.
1:13 - This is my personal favorite. Salazar receives a long pass, but calmly moves into the box. His footwork keeps the defender guessing before he taps it around to get the better position. Once the defender lunges for the ball and is out of the picture, the keeper comes out, but Salazar confidently taps the ball into the net. Pure confidence demonstrated from start to finish.
1:55 - If there was a "Tim Hardaway" crossover in soccer, Salazar executed it perfectly in this one. Wow.
The entire clip shows Salazar's work ethic, his explosiveness and ball control, and his relentless confidence. The last few clips of the video show his performance in a January scrimmage against the Dynamo. After the game, several of the players were asking about the young player who gave the defense fits the entire game.
Now they'll have Salazar working for them, not against.
It wasn't just a milestone for Salazar alone. The signing says a lot about the Dynamo Academy and sets the tone for future academy players. Canetti, Kinnear, and Clarkson all touched on the success and the vision of the Dynamo Academy. Ultimately, the goal is produce professional athletes - and Salazar's signing is a new standard.
One thing that stuck with Salazar as he moved up the ranks was the message from the academy. Kinnear recalled hearing Salazar referencing it a handful of times during their discussions. The message is the players are there because they want to play professional soccer. And that's exactly what Bryan wanted to accomplish.
Now the Fort Bend Bush High School senior has accomplished that mission. Next up for the MLS rookie will be to get his high school diploma on June 7th. He'll train with the first team when his school schedule allows, and will join full time once graduation is behind him.
It's a bit early to dissect how much of an impact Salazar will have on the Dynamo, but this announcement is a huge step in the right direction for the club, the academy, and soccer in America. Salazar's climb from bottom to the top of the developmental mountain is an inspiration for every aspiring soccer player out there. It lets every kid out there with a dream know that hard work does pay off and great things can happen. It also lets those parents who make countless sacrifices for their children's dreams know that one day they'll get to hold that first jersey with their child on the biggest day of their life.
When it was Salazar's time to speak to the full room of media, he knew exactly who to thank for his success. After God, he thanked his mother who has driven him to academy practice every day since he was 11 years old. He went on to thank his teammates and says his current team is the best he's ever been a part of. Salazar knows the dream he just realized as he signed that MLS contract wouldn't have been possible without family, the academy, and his teammates.
That's a great start because it's a similar recipe to continuing that success in the pros. His family, the technical staff for the Dynamo, and his new teammates will all influence his development into the next stage of his career.
There are a few things to accomplish before he goes down that road, but for now Salazar can soak in the moment and celebrate his hard work, his family's support of his dream, and the players and coaches that helped him along the way.