Much of the talk surrounding the Houston Dynamo recently has been centered around their lack of incisiveness and effectiveness in the final third, which has resulted in the serious scoring woes they've experienced since they settled down and finally attempted to play defense a few months ago.
Many of the comments on my recent article were in favor of adding a new, more offensively-savvy winger to play opposite Andrew Wenger in order to offset the lack of a true No. 10. I fully agree with that sentiment, and I think this is something the Dynamo front office should be looking at doing in this transfer window or in this winter's. Who that will be remains to be seen — although I seriously doubt it will be Darlington Nagbe, I'm sorry to tell you — and I can't give you any insider information on who they could be looking at.
But I can suggest a name that I think people will be familiar with: Jose 'Memo' Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a 20-year old winger who is currently playing on loan for Rio Grande Valley FC, was signed to a Homegrown contract as an 18-year old, and has spent the last couple years on loan in the USL. I hesitate to say that he is the long-term answer to all of the Dynamo's problems, but I do think that giving him some opportunities in the first-team's starting lineup wouldn't hurt. Rodriguez has loads of potential, and he needs to be given the chance to realize it.
With that in mind, I give you an in-depth scouting report on Memo, noting his strengths and his weaknesses as well as his playing style and how he would fit with Houston. Here we go:
—Goal-scoring: The Dynamo need more incisiveness in the final third, right? Well, Rodriguez showed that he has that in bunches when he scored twice in RGVFC's recent 4-0 demolition of the Whitecaps' reserve team (which earned him player-of-the-week honors). His long-range upper-90 blast will get the attention, but I especially liked his first goal:
Rodriguez receives the ball on the touchline, gets his head up, finds a pass, and immediately makes a run into space, getting the ball back from a teammate and breaking through the opponent's backline with creative dribbling, then blasting a shot in the bottom corner. The speed and creativity shown here is not something that any other current Dynamo player can boast.
—Playmaking: One thing that Rodriguez does really well is cut inside from the wing and create opportunities centrally. He takes up more positions on the touchline than in the middle when RGV don't have possession, but when the Toros get the ball back and it circulates to his side of the field, he likes to dribble into the midfield and try to pick out a pass. Once he gets in these positions, he helps to add numbers and add creativity in crucial spots, and he opens up space down the wing for overlapping runs from the full back.
He draws defenders thanks to his touch-heavy runs in Zone 15, and he earns set pieces — which he takes — in threatening spots. Memo isn't exactly Mauro Diaz-caliber when delivering the final pass, but he is exceptionally good for his age at facilitating play around the final third and helping teammates get opportunities on goal.
Just watch what he was able to do in RGV's recent 0-0 draw with the Tulsa Roughnecks:
He receives the ball with his back to goal just outside the box and immediately draws a cluster of defenders, eventually resulting a Jorginho James shot on goal. This is a different kind of playmaking than we traditionally see, but it is a kind that the Dynamo desperately need.
This is not to say that he can't make plays in other facets of the game, however. He has shown an ability to be creative both from deeper in midfield and on the counter. Watch both of these plays for proof of that:
Memo Rodriguez has many components to his style of play, all of which could be crucial for the Dynamo.
—Delivery: Another attractive quality of Rodriguez's game is that he can hit killer balls with both feet, and he can play on either wing.
Currently, the Dynamo don't have a single player in the starting XI who can hit a killer ball period, so he definitely would be bringing something greatly needed.
Wilmer Cabrera has Memo taking set pieces — inswingers from both sides — and it is working. He has shown an ability to go near-post or far-post, and can also test keepers with balls directly into the six-yard box. He can cross the ball from open play as well, only adding another element to his game.
—Turnovers: While Rodriguez has proved time and time again that he can be very good when given the opportunity to run by defenders and get into central areas, he has a tendency to take too many dribbles far from the goal he is trying to get to, often turning the ball over in spots that forces RGVFC to scramble.
His 1v1 skills can't be denied, and defenders know that, so they attempt to converge on him when he has the ball. It's not his fault that he can't dribble through that — he's not Messi — but he should be able to recognize it early and find a pass into space.
Here's one example of this:
He's holding the ball too long. It's a simple flaw, and a common one. It'll go away as he gets more experience.
—Positioning: Memo consistently drifts away from the touchline and tries to find pockets of space in central areas. He's unique in that he likes to stay stationary when without the ball in these positions in order to try and pick out passes, rather than run the channels and try to stretch the defense like a modern winger. It's almost like he becomes a No. 10 at some points in the game, albeit one who spends most of his time closer to one touchline than the other.
These are not bad things. What is bad, though, is his positioning when he inverts.
Rodriguez needs to get better at realizing the spots where the opponent is weakest and taking advantage of it. He should be able to see areas that are more open than others, and the places that he could work from the best. There are times when he runs into a position in midfield expecting a pass to come, but shortly after realizes that there are multiple defenders around him and thus he is forced to move around.
But again, this is something that can be coached. I think Memo's strengths outweigh his negatives, and he should be someone who can help the Dynamo for years to come.