Joe Willis for most of the 2019 campaign had been the number one guy in goal for the Houston Dynamo. Willis first arrived in Houston over the 2014 offseason in a trade that sent Andrew Driver to D.C. United with Willis coming to H-Town to primarily serve as a backup goalkeeper to Tyler Deric. Willis largely performed as the number two keeper choice but injuries to Deric and increasingly positive performances by Willis saw his time in goal increase until he eventually took over the job.
The last two seasons have seen former Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera attempt to balance his starting goalkeepers by changing between Willis and Deric at various points in the season – possibly to keep the competition for the number one spot healthy.
On the field Willis was known for being an outstanding shot stopper helping him develop into a fan favorite whose aggressiveness in goal gave him the nickname “Mean Joe Willis”.
Big time reaction saves and going full stretch like the examples below established Willis as a force in the league and it’s possible if the Dynamo had a better defense in front of him, he may have gotten more praise nationally.
However, we did see some decline in his form in 2019 with gaffes becoming increasingly common.
This, unfortunately for Willis, saw Tyler Deric re-take some of the starting minutes down the final stretch of the season.
So why did Matt Jordan and Tab Ramos pull the trigger on a trade which will have Willis part of the expansion side Nashville SC? Well it seems to me there are a few reasons with the obvious being a decline in form by Willis with a capable substitute in Deric available. However, it appears to be bigger than just that – after all if it were just about form the two keepers could compete for the number one job during preseason.
With DaMarcus Beasley now retired, there is room for depth or competition at the left back position which is where the trade target of Zarek Valentin primarily plays. Adam Lundqvist should be first considered as the replacement to the USMNT legend’s spot, but Valentin has played for Ramos with the US U-20s and that could help him at minimum be a valuable backup.
The Houston Dynamo have been active this offseason having acquired Darwin Quintero, shipped Romell Quioto off for center back Victor Cabrera, and now they have moved on from Joe Willis. There are most certainly moves to come, but sometimes you have to take a minute to make some sense why a fan favorite was traded.
Willis kept it classy with his farewell message on twitter and we hope he enjoys a successful career with Nashville – although not if it means going through Houston.
Thank you @houstondynamo and Dynamo supporters for a memorable five years, it’s been an honor representing this club. And thanks to the guys from the Unified Team for letting me hang with you, I’ll miss it! Now onto the next chapter with @nashvillesc pic.twitter.com/axCeia90yK— Joe Willis (@JoeWillis23) November 21, 2019
What are some of your favorite Willis moments? Let us know in the comments below!