It hasn’t been that long of an offseason since the Houston Dynamo made it pretty far into the postseason in 2017, but that still feels pretty distant. Well, a new season is finally upon us as the Houston Dynamo will take on Atlanta United FC at BBVA Compass Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
The Houston Dynamo’s offseason was mostly successful because they were able to keep Alberth Elis and Juan David Cabezas on the team which gives them a goal scorer with pace out wide and a sturdy defensive midfielder. The club was able to make some other moves that helped give the team some depth. Signing Alejandro Fuenmayor gives them a talented, young center back to eventually take over as a starter. Arturo Álvarez returns to his hometown and he can provide depth as an attacker in a forward position or as a midfielder.
Other signings include Chris Seitz, the likely starting goalkeeper day 1, who will once again help the Dynamo have a nice 1-2 option at goalkeeper due to Tyler Deric’s currently ongoing legal situation. The club also signed rookie Michael Nelson who impressed during the preseason, but is the de facto 3rd option at the moment.
Darwin Cerén was another player the club acquired who I can picture pairing up with Cabezas as defensive oriented midfielders which would allow Tomás Martínez and the forwards to mostly concentrate on that side of the ball. Eric Bird and Charlie Ward also signed contracts with the Dynamo following their successful stints with Rio Grande Valley FC Toros while the Dynamo also signed their other draft pick, forward Mac Steeves.
It wasn’t all addition for the Dynamo as the club said goodbye to a number of familiar faces including Dynamo legend Ricardo Clark. Clark, who recently signed with Columbus Crew SC, will undoubtedly be missed primarily through his work ethic that became an example for everyone. Cubo Torres is no longer with the club which gives Mauro Manotas a defined starting center forward role. Alex Lima, who thrived as a free roaming midfielder for most of the year, signed on to South Korea side Suwon FC which will allow Tomás Martínez to transition to a true number 10 without much competition. Jalil Anibaba is another player not returning. His utility across the backline will be missed if the club sees another big injury bug, but he was routinely targeted against the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Finals. Vicente Sanchez, who quickly became a fan favorite and decided to retire, will be missed for his pace, precise passing, and ability to nag opponents with or without the ball. Martínez and Álvarez have big shoes to fill in that regard.
Against Atlanta United in the club’s first game it’s important to know who is available and likely to play. Martínez is currently suspended for the first game for his red card in leg 2 of the Western Conference Finals so he will not be available. The injury report is generally clear of Dynamo names with the exception of A. J. DeLaGarza who is recovering from an ACL tear and is not expected back for a few months. George Malki and Dylan Remick both missed significant preseason time with apparent concussions. Should they be 100% I still wouldn’t count them in as starters for game 1 so I’ll list them as questionable until I hear more.
The rest of the team should be available so let’s start examining the options Wilmer Cabrera has to work with starting with the goalkeepers.
Joe Willis became the starting goalkeeper midway through last season before losing the job to Tyler Deric before getting the gig back following the accusations against Deric. Willis held out for a better contract during the offseason and was probably able to negotiate a better deal than his 2017 one. Still, as a result of his negotiating he missed out on some preseason action where Chris Seitz saw the majority of playing time. I would anticipate Seitz the starter for day 1, but I am by no means calling Seitz the regular number 1 in goal just yet.
Defensively, the club has some options, but I’m going to start with the fullbacks before addressing the center backs. The only threat to DaMarcus Beasley starting is Dylan Remick and I’d still edge Beasley as the likely starter in that race. With Remick coming off an injury, Beasley will be the starting left back this Saturday. At right back, so far we’ve seen George Malki and Kevin Garcia battling it out for the starting spot until DeLaGarza can return. With Malki also coming off an injury, I’d expect Kevin Garcia to start.
The center back dilemma is one that the Dynamo may be fortunate to have this season given the injuries we saw at that position last season. With Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, Fuenmayor, and Philippe Senderos, the Dynamo have a lot of experience at CB. Based on the pairings during preseason, I think Cabrera opts for Machado and Senderos to start. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Machado and Leonardo though. Fuenmayor needs a little more time, but I think he will take over this position during the season after he gets some minutes under his belt.
In the midfield, with Tomás Martínez suspended and without Alex as an option, there are only two direct replacements that I see at CAM: Oscar Boniek García and Arturo Álvarez. Of the two, Boniek is the player I’d predict to start. In the two more defensive minded midfield spots, Juan David Cabezas should be a lock to start and I’d think Eric Alexander sits next to him. Darwin Cerén is another good option, but Alexander may be the better passer between the two and Boniek may need help in that regard so I’d pick Alexander to start with Boniek as the CAM.
Up top there are two players that are certainly going to start and they are Mauro Manotas at center forward and Alberth Elis at right winger. Romell Quioto is likely to be the main left winger on the team, but he spent most of the preseason recovering from an illness with Andrew Wenger in his place. I’d take Wenger to start at LW, but Álvarez, Quioto, or even Memo Rodriguez are options in Cabrera’s system.
My Projected Starting Lineup
There are a ton of options, not to mention formations to play with so let us know who you think should be in the starting lineup against Atlanta in the opener!