Two minutes into the Houston Dynamo’s March 31 game against the New England Revolution, Alberth Elis gave us another glittering display of pure play-making and athleticism:
I present 2018 Alberth Elis, who can turn every corner, bait every defender and make every one of his possessions electric: pic.twitter.com/MBAYRcIbVl— Harrison Hamm (@harrisonhamm21) April 10, 2018
He faked a defender with a clever off-ball spin move, beating one player before even touching the ball, and then, without a single step-over or dribble move of any kind, he turned a seemingly blockaded corner around left back Gabriel Somi. It was through his straight-line speed, strength and recognition that he left Somi in the dust, and it was a prime example of the electricity on the ball that has defined his red-hot start to the season.
Elis has two goals and three assists in four games, playing like one of the league’s best attackers and creating almost everything on goal for the Dynamo. With a tall-ish (6’0”) and sturdy (168 lbs) build, he is goal-dangerous every time he touches the ball.
He doesn’t beat you with intricate foot skills and his touch wouldn’t always be described as “deft,” but he has a unique ability to time his long, aggressive dribbles exactly right so he can sprint by the defender on him and get back to the ball in time to speed by the next one. His long strides and ability to use his body to shield defenders enable him to make something happen with every touch.
Owing to his physical frame, it is so hard to get the ball off him that defenders have to over-commit to make in-roads, leaving themselves fatally exposed to a bull rush into space. Once he takes off, it’s impossible to catch him without a) fouling him or b) making a world-class tackle that would probably result in a red card nine out of 10 times.
As has been well-documented this season, his final ball leaves a lot to be desired. But he’s played too well and with too much swagger and confidence to not be counted as one of MLS’s best early season performers.
Goals be damned, let’s appreciate it while we can!