With an improved back line, can the Houston Dynamo compete for a MLS Cup playoff spot in 2021? A mix of experience, talent, and potential should have Dynamo fans excited not just for this season, but for the future.
Zarek Valentin : The People’s Champ
Coming in to the 2020 season, Valentin was seen as the back up for the Chilean international Jose Bizama, but a last minute injury for Jose had Zarek as the starting right back from day one.
Quickly becoming a fan favorite off the pitch for all his community work and being outspoken about the social issues that plague our society, Zarek has also proven himself to be a fan favorite on the pitch as well. With some assists and key passes under his belt on the offensive side of the ball and being a dependable, experienced and vocal defender we will for sure see more of Zarek flying back and forth on the right wing.
Is Zarek a starter in your mind without a doubt?
Tim Parker : The Captain
With the departure of Kiki Struna, and with Houston Dynamo FC finishing the 2020 season with 40 goals against and a -10 goal differential, it was time to rebuild. Head coach Tab Ramos and GM/VP Matt Jordan set their sights on bringing in a defender with MLS experience while also fitting in the category of being a young, vocal leader with a winning background.
Parker pretty much hits all the categories. The 28 year old New York native comes in with 6 season of Major League Soccer under his belt and multiple appearances in key stages for the New York Red Bulls. He knows what it takes to be in the late stages of playoffs, make deep runs in the ScotiaBank CONCACAF Champions League and has even lifted a Supporter’s Shield with record breaking numbers (71 points) with New York.
Will Parker have what it takes to take HDFC to the MLS Playoffs?
Maynor Figueroa : The Veteran
Maynor, the timeless Honduran national. At 37, yes 37, and I repeat 37, Maynor will be (most likely) the second part on that center back duo with Parker. As his CB partner, Figueroa brings experience, lots of it, with minutes in MLS, the English Premier League, and even a World Cup to his name. Unfortunately, Maynor might have to answer some calls of duty with the Honduran national team which will open the doors for the younger guys to fill his spot in his absence.
Will age and the great number of games for club and country affect Maynor’s physique and/or performance?
Adam Lundkvist : The “I earned my spot” Dude
To finish the starting four in the back, we’ve got Adam (whose last name I will probably never be able to pronounce correctly). Lundy for short, had to wait to earn his spot by sitting behind the legend DaMarcus Beasley, but once he got the green light he made sure to step up his level and quality and held on to the position. Lundkvist has became an undisputed starter in this HDFC starting XI.
How useful will Adam be in this high pressing, heavy attacking team Tab Ramos is putting together?
Jose Bizama : The Redemption Seeker
Bizama was brought to Houston to be the starter at right back, but had to sit out most of the 2020 season due to a very unfortunate injury, giving Zarek Valentin the chance to take ownership of the position. The Chilean will have to compete, and maybe due to the schedule being compressed in certain months, might benefit from possible rotations. This is a key moment in his career as “La Flecha” (the arrow in Spanish) tries to find more minutes on the pitch and earn a call up from the Chilean national team once again.
Will Bizama find his way to a starting spot again in this Houston Dynamo FC team?
Sam Junqua : The Revelation
Other than the starting four mentioned above, Junqua has been the only defender to have a substantial amount of minutes in 2020 and in this 2021 pre-season. Sam played in a few different positions including LB and LW last season. In this preseason he has been placed as a starting CB next to Tim Parker for a few games, which surprised many folks out there.
One thing is true about Sam, the kid has heart and the questions then is, will his will power and dedication earn him a starting role whenever Figueroa is not able to be around?
Alejandro Fuenmayor : The Permanent Back up?
The youngster from Venezuela was brought in as a promising future star at the CB position, but unfortunately he hasn’t been able to get a hold on the position. Competition with more experienced CBs has proven a little difficult for Alejandro to get some minutes in. With the schedule looking tight at points, it might mean that some of the younger guys will have to step up to give their teammates a breather, which will give them the opportunity to ball out. Fuenmayor will have to take advantage of every second he gets this 2021 if he wants to have a starting role or even more playing in the future either here in Houston.
How useful do you think Fuenmayor will be in the depth chart on the CB position?
Ian Hoffmann : Tab’s Pick
Ian comes in after a season with the RGV Toros and before that in Karlsruher SC, in 2. Bundesliga. The 19 year old who has previously played under Tab Ramos in the U20 National Team, comes in as one of the hand full of players that Ramos himself seemed to have handpicked due to their time together in the past. This preseason we have seen Ian take the pitch for a few minutes.
Hoffmann has proven that he has the ability to compete for a role, but does he have the level to compete for an MLS starting role?
Ethan Bartlow : The Rookie
Drafted 6th overall by Houston Dynamo FC, the Generation Adidas player comes in as the highest rated defender in the 2021 SuperDraft class. As we all know by now, HDFC hav struggled on the back line for quite a while now, and with the hiring of Tab Ramos we are expectant of Ramos’ idea of play and philosophy, which includes young talent and experienced MLS talent. Bartlow comes in as that young and athletic part of the philosophy and with his talent displayed in his college years, it brings hope to the fans that we may have a potential very talented CB in our ranks.
Will Ethan become a household name in the near future of this Houston Dynamo FC?
What is your perfect starting defensive back four? Let us know in the comments below.