The 2019 season is already looking brighter even though it hasn’t begun yet with the Houston Dynamo recently partnering with a new jersey sponsor, Champion’s League to look forward to, and let’s face it the 2018 season is even further behind us.
That being said there is plenty to reflect from an overall underwhelming season. The Dynamo at times managed to keep up with some of the league’s best and looked like they could score 10 goals a game at the pace they played at. The huge summer lull was a hole they never climbed out of unfortunately, but they did manage to claim some silverware when they won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup trophy.
Last week we asked you to let us know how you thought the Dynamo players performed throughout the 2018 season. Everyone has unique opinions so by putting them together we can see how we collectively felt about how players did in general for the 2018 year.
Top of the Class/Top 5 Players
FW: Mauro Manotas, MVP (9) – The reigning team MVP naturally deserves the top honors this season as he had a career year. He set the single season scoring record for the Dynamo with his 19 goal season and was the top goal scorer of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup which helped the Dynamo get their first USOC title and our only silverware this past season. He’s grown sharper and hungrier as a center forward not only with his goal tallies, but with his instincts. Just look at the opening goal in the USOC Final against the Philadelphia Union:
The way the ball comes in and bounces up, if he took that with his foot it very easily could have gone over the top of the crossbar. Instead, he lowers himself and heads it into the net. He’s shown that he isn’t afraid to rocket a shot off from distance or combine with players inside the box. There are elements of his game that need some improving, but he’s young and getting better every day.
FW: Alberth Elis (8) – Early in the year we all thought Elis was a contender for MVP. Not just team MVP, but a contender for the league MVP. That narrative took hold because of an extremely hot start as Elis scored 4 goals and assisted 4 more in the first 7 games of the year. Elis would cool off but still finish with a very respectable 11 goals and 10 assists. What makes Elis such a dangerous player is obviously his speed. From a dead stop he’s able to generate enough space to get a shot off or send in a ball across goal which Manotas loved to see coming his way. His first touch is frustrating at times, but his ability to accelerate often helps him catch up to a poorly trapped ball. If Elis is given space to run, he can probably beat any defender in a race.
GK: Joe Willis (7.9) – For whatever reason Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera isn’t clear who his starting goalkeeper is to begin the year. I understand that having Tyler Deric and Joe Willis can make that difficult with both being relatively strong keepers in their own right. Deric’s availability went away early in the year due to a domestic assault charge, but then the Dynamo signed Chris Seitz to keep the GK competition going. Anyways, Willis didn’t get playing until the 6th game of the year and he largely never looked back. Willis came up with some huge saves along the way staying focused and making good reaction and responsive saves. He’s shown to be capable of stopping players from the penalty spot which is listed as a strength of his on WhoScored.com. His big time saves helped keep the Dynamo in games or at times from going behind even more and he is definitely a top 5 player this season for Houston. Oh, and he was nominated for Save of the Year as well.
FW: Romell Quioto (7.7) – There’s certainly a cloud around Quioto as a divisive player largely centered on his comments about wanting to leave Houston to go to Europe. On or off the field though, the guy is all passion. You can see it when he’s frustrated, when we’re doing well, when he’s taken off before he wants to be, or when he wasn’t being played early in the season due to him recovering from an injury. He wants to play and the Dynamo are a very good team with him on the field. He brings pace, although not as much as Elis on the opposite side of the field, strength, vision, and he’s just good at being in the right place at the right time. He ended up finishing with 6 goals and 12 assists and while his scoring tally is probably lower than we would like, he made up for it by finding Manotas and Elis. He’s shown time and time again that he can use his speed and strength to get free down the line and towards goal to set up himself or someone else. Oh and he has a pretty good shot too.
DEF: DaMarcus Beasley (7.2) – Beasley might not jump out as a top 5 player during the 2018 season considering the defense was often a liability, but some numbers back Beasley’s position. He led the team in tackles per game with 2.2 and was among the team’s most accurate passers with only Juan David Cabezas and Darwin Cerén having a better passing percentage per game. While Beasley may not entirely be the player he was, he hasn’t lost much of it and his ability to stay with opponents and distribute from the wing – specifically nice 1-2 passes up the field, have helped the team immensely.
Solid B+ Guys
This group is all pretty well rounded and maybe if Cabezas had more than a handful of games his stock would rise to the Top of the Class tier. Boniek has shown a lot of aggressiveness moving forward and while a liability of defense, he can still contribute if we need to push for goals. Wenger struggled early as his position was less defined, but it grew into a solid job at right back. He’s incredibly good at staying in front of players with the ball and his instincts help him when he needs to move up the field. Fuenmayor and Senderos were two of our best pairings in central defense this year but Senderos couldn’t stay on the field due to injuries and Fuenmayor is still experiencing some growing pains as he develops. Tomás Martínez hasn’t been quite the key to unlock the team the way that we hoped, but he did finish the year with 5 goals and 13 assists.
MID: Oscar Boniek García (6.9)
DEF: Andrew Wenger (6.7)
DEF: Alejandro Fuenmayor (6.6)
MID: Tomás Martínez (6.6)
MID: Juan David Cabezas (6.5)
DEF: Philippe Senderos (6.4)
This list has a lot of players that have the potential to move up into the tier above them, especially A.J. DeLaGarza who missed the majority of the year because of an injury. Memo has shown to be explosive and what we need off the bench .Lundqvist, when playing his natural left back spot, can slip in seamlessly for DaMarcus Beasley. It’s been pretty early, but Peña has shown a lot of hustle in limited minutes. Chris Seitz, the early number 1 option in goal, has looked good in his appearances. It’ll be interesting to see what direction the front office goes next season because we probably won’t keep Willis, Seitz, and Tyler Deric.
FW: Memo Rodríguez (6.1)
DEF: Adam Lundqvist (5.8)
FW: Ronaldo Peña (5.8)
GK: Chris Seitz (5.7)
DEF: A.J. DeLaGarza (5.6)
Okay in a Pinch
This group has shown they can contribute as plug in players surrounded by regular first team players. Eric Alexander is a solid passer, but having him as our defensive midfielder is not a great plan. Machado and Garcia should not play right back, but they’ve looked pretty serviceable in central defense. Cerén had big shoes to fill when he took over the CDM spot for Cabezas. Cerén proved he was capable of threading some very good balls from deep, but his natural instincts often pushed him out of position and sometimes that made the defense pay.
MID: Eric Alexander (5.4)
DEF: Adolfo Machado (5.2)
DEF: Kevin Garcia (5.1)
MID: Darwin Cerén (4.9)
And the Rest of the Team
This group is more of a mixed bag. I think Leonardo is strong in the box and in the air, can tackle, but his distribution for a center back needs to be better. Eric Bird needs to keep growing his confidence and he’ll move up this list. Unfortunately for Watts, he did not see a lot of playing time, but I think he needed time to develop chemistry with those around him. Álvarez and Gil just didn’t fit as well as we hoped they would.
DEF: Leonardo (4.6)
MID: Eric Bird (4.6)
DEF: Jared Watts (4.5)
FW: Arturo Álvarez (4.3)
MID: Luis Gil (4.0)
The Head Coach
Wilmer Cabrera (5.7) – This was a tough season for the Dynamo head coach. Coming off a Western Conferences Finals trip was followed up by missing the playoffs completely. I think in general Cabrera tried to over think or over manage his team at times and that’s seen with how defensive we get on the road or when we’re up a goal. When the team is let off the leash and just presses, pushes, and goes for goal we tend to do really well. Injuries to key players and a loaded summer schedule didn’t help either. I’m excited to see what we do with our Open Cup earnings and how we fare in 2019.