Of the select few promising young players currently in the Houston Dynamo organization, striker Mauro Manotas is the most prominent of them. He earned a starting job under Wade Barrett late in the 2016 season at the age of 21 and finished tied for the most goals on the team.
Out of all the envisioned turnover this offseason, Manotas seems to be the one player who is sure to stay for 2017. He projects as a core member of this club under Wilmer Cabrera for years to come.
With this in mind, it feels pertinent to more closely examine the strengths, weaknesses, and the playing style of Manotas. After watching multiple Dynamo games for a second time with a notebook and a pen in hand, I have rated the Colombian out of six specified categories that add up to give him an overall rating out of 100.
Here are the classifications:
/20 - Shooting, finishing
Measuring the goal-scoring effectiveness of the striker. Basically, the striker’s ability to consistently get into goal-scoring positions and finish those chances at a high rate.
/20 - Passing
The player’s involvement and effectiveness in build-up play make up the passing category. Factors include hold-up play, one-touch passing, playmaking, passing in tight spaces, efficiency, and inclusion in possession and build-up play. The quantity of passes may not necessarily give a player a high score; efficiency and penetration will. Quality over quantity.
/20 - Soccer IQ, tactical awareness
In short, this grades a striker’s awareness of the players around him. Recognizing what runs to make and when to make them is a crucial element, as are knowing when to check back, when and where to press, and the most effective passes at any given time.
/20 - Technical
A player’s pure skill with the ball at his feet. 1v1 effectiveness, first touch, and dribbling with and without space are the top factors.
/10 - Physical
Assessing a player’s physicality, pace, and aerial ability. Strength, speed, endurance, and heading are essentially what makes this section.
/10 - Durability, work rate
This category falls into two parts: the amount of minutes a striker plays (injury-prone players would not have a high score), and the amount of work they give in any given game. Being able to 1) show up and 2) put in real effort are what is being graded here.
Manotas’s grades for this will be coming up a little later on. First, we have to pinpoint his some basics on him and his career so far.
The Colombian played as a lone forward in a 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 pretty much every game, except for a couple of brief late-game spells when he played alongside Will Bruin in a 4-4-2. He is not a traditional target forward No. 9, nor is he a second striker, false 9 Clint Dempsey-type; he falls in between.
Manotas is a reliable enough lone forward — he does not need a partner to be successful — but he certainly could function alongside a No. 9 like C.J. Sapong or a second striker like Chris Wondolowski. Unless the 4-4-2 is set to return to Houston, and I don’t think that’s going to happen under Wilmer Cabrera, Manotas will stick to his role alone at the top.
Here are his basic statistics courtesy of his MLS page:
My evaluation of Manotas is not based on analytics or statistics — this is more of a scouting report — but I would be remiss if I didn’t look at his numbers more closely, so you will likely see me referencing some of his statistics from the three sites above.
Baseline style of play
Obviously, you will see more of his playing style in the next two weeks, but I figured it would be beneficial if I gave you some basic notes on how he plays. These are not strengths and weaknesses, simply observations:
- Manotas gets his goals from clever movement in the box more than anything else. He’s more than just a poacher, but when it comes down to it, he primarily uses his ability to create separation in the box.
- While hold-up play is not his main attribute, it is something he can do fairly effectively.
- He gets involved in the Dynamo’s build-up play, but only when someone in the midfield manages to find him with a pass, which is not always common.
- Many of his runs are not found by Dynamo players. Watching him play is a good case for why Houston needs a No. 10.
Everything else, we’ll cover in his main evaluation.