If the 2020 off-season showed us anything it’s that Tab Ramos is not afraid of dropping and picking up assets. Ten players left the club including a surprising trade to move starting center back Kiki Struna. Now, with plenty of players on the current roster having contracts set to expire at the end of December, many will have to step up if they want to extend their Houston Dynamo FC days or find themselves looking at new horizons. Here are some players, who may have their days numbered, if they fail to have a productive 2021 season.
The 24-year-old Venezuelan started his Dynamo career back in 2018, showing a ton of potential and very raw talent. Former Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera was forced to start Alejandro when injuries and inconsistent play from Philip Senderos gave the team defensive issues. Slotted in the right-center back position, Fuenmayor, saw plenty of game action before he himself suffered from minor injuries due to the heavy volume of matches in a short time span. Fuenmayor, was all over the place at times, not necessarily playing scared but showing his inexperience on the field. When he committed errors, he quickly redeemed himself by scoring a goal or having an acrobatic goal-line save. After suiting up in 26 games in 2018, Alejandro’s playing time dramatically declined in 2019 (12 matches) and in 2020 (5 matches).
Current coach Tab Ramos may see Fuenmayor’s potential and depth value to the team since his contract option was picked up for one more year, but it’s now or never for the former Carabobo player. Otherwise, Sam Junqua (mister versatile) and rookie Ethan Bartlow will keep Alejandro Fuenmayor out of the match day team sheet.
With the departure of Mauro Manotas, Ramirez will be the new Dynamo number 9. No, literally he switched his number 13 for the number 9, in hopes of becoming Houston’s new Matador (Killer in Spanish and Manotas’ nickname). The American of Colombian descent had a rough 2020 season, even though he saw action in 5 more matches than in 2019, his playing minutes were almost identical. Tab put all his trust in the struggling Manotas which hindered Christian’s opportunities. (Tab did not do much rotation during his first season). Now, entering his third season with the club, the longest run with any MLS team, Ramirez will look at making the striker position his own. There will, however, be plenty of competition against newcomers such as Maximiliano Urruti and Fafa Picault. But if Ramirez can get hot and score goals when given the opportunity, Christian may finally reign as Houston’s number 9.
Jose Bizama was signed back in July 2019 to replace a fragile A.J. De La Garza, who could not catch a break from injuries. Even though the Chilean international was poised to be the starting right-back, he too was hit with the injury bug. The versatile player who had just broken into Chile’s national team, earning four caps for La Roja, found himself at the trainer’s table more often than in matches. Bizama played in five out of the eight remaining games after joining the team in 2019 and was unlucky to break his foot a few days before 2020’s Opening Day match versus the LA Galaxy. La Flecha (nicknamed The Arrow) has plenty of potential and should be vying for the starting right back job in 2021 with Zarek Valentin. If Bizama fails to make a mark with the team in 2021, while holding an all-important international slot, it will be an easy contract option for Tab Ramos to decline.
The Costa Rican international was brought in to replace Alberth Elis last summer, just before the Honduran departed for Europe. And even though Lassiter shows a lot of promise in his playing style, at 26, he should be entering the prime of his career. However, he does not appear to be there just yet. Arriving to Houston after having a fantastic 2019-20 season in Costa Rica with Alajuelense by netting 21 goals in 48 appearances, Ari scored a brace in his Dynamo debut via Alberth Elis assists. However, once La Panterita departed, Lassiter struggled to make any further impression for the club. He appeared in 16 matches and scored three goals, again two of them being scored in his debut, failing to push the team into the post-season. If Lassiter wants to solidify his spot on the team and extend his contract for 2022, he will need to figure out whether his best position in Tab’s system is striker or winger. Once, that is determined he will need to become a scoring machine or an assist provider to show his value in a club that is in true need of both. Players like Tyler Pasher and Mateo Bajamich will be looking to get minutes as well if Lassiter is not hitting on all cylinders early in the season.
The Salvadorian national team captain has been with the Dynamo since 2018. He found himself being mostly used coming off the bench during Wilmer Cabrera’s era. However, all his hard work in training paid off as he earned Tab Ramos’ trust. Darwin started in 18 games out of 20 that he appeared on and rightly so, he showed poise, determination and became a constant motor for the midfield. Now the 31-year-old will have to come into the season with the same fire from the previous year if he wants to keep earning minutes in a saturated midfield group. The addition of Joe Corona and Derrick Jones will be the most interesting ones that could affect Ceren’s playing time or at least his starting role. Ceren has always shown to be a complete professional and always looks for the best interest of the team, so if his role is coming off the bench he will continue to add value to Tab’s roster. But the time is now for him to solidify a place in the midfield.
Which of these players do you think will contribute more to the team and will find a place in Tab’s system? Let us know your thoughts.