Welcome, welcome to the first of many, Houston Dynamo 2sdays! What are we going to get on these 2sdays editions? A little bit of everything but all focused on the next generation of the Houston Dynamo Football Club, Houston Dynamo 2.
Well, let’s get to it.
As of today, DynaDos sit in first place in the MLS NEXT Pro Western Conference with 18 points after seven matches played. The boys have 6 victories and only 1 defeat, which ended the season-opening five match winning streak. The only team that could match that record as of now is Columbus Crew 2, who have 5 victories and 1 defeat with one less match played.
After their first defeat of the season, delivered to them by Tacoma Defiance, Dynamo 2 came back to AVEVA Stadium this past Sunday (shoutout to all the moms) to host Colorado Rapids 2. DynaDos were looking for a bounce back and to remind the league that they are here to compete for that MLS NEXT Pro title.
The team led by head coach Kenny Bundy did just that. The boys came out strong on a hot, sweaty (and apparently windy) night to put the pressure on Rapids 2. When not in possession of the ball, the team would push and pressure up high to force the Rapids into making mistakes and/or creating turnovers that led to chances for DynaDos. The fact that Brooklyn Raines had already gotten a shot on frame by the second minute of the match was a good indicator of how the team came out with something to prove.
As a result of that pressure, DynaDos were able to get a few corner kicks early in the match. After a bad clearance on one of those corners the ball landed on the chest of Talen Maples. The captain let the ball bounce and rocketed his shot into the back of the net in the 26th minute, putting DynaDos ahead 1-0.
Defensively, DynaDos were very strong, only allowing 2 shots. Colorado’s first shot didn’t come until around the half hour mark. The defense was once again led by goalkeeper Xavier Valdez, who picked up another clean sheet. With Mujeeb Murana out, Ian Hoffmann slotted in as right back. Captain Maples, who leads the league in minutes, started at right center back with the newest signing to the club Micael dos Santos as his companion in that center back duo. The versatile Jathan Juarez started at the other fullback position and had a huge game.
In the midfield we saw the same trio that is thriving in MLS NEXT Pro this year and showing huge potential for the (near) future. Juan Castilla played with a yellow for 60 minutes but still put in a good shift on both sides of the ball. Brooklyn Raines only played the first 45 minutes, leading a lot of us to theorize that we might see him get some minutes tomorrow when the Dynamo face San Antonio FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Last in that trio, and a friend of the house, Marcelo Palomino played 60 minutes and had a decent match running the offense.
On the wings we saw a familiar face in Beto Avila, who this past week became the first player in MLS NEXT Pro history to sign a professional contract with a Major League Soccer first team. The journey continues for this young winger/striker to make a difference and get more consistent minutes with the first team. Coach Bundy told the media this week, when asked about Beto, “it’s not about the first contract, but how hard do you work to get your second contract”. On the opposite side we saw Jacob Evans. We have seen before in more of a central midfield role, but during this match he had to cover the right side of the attack. Up top was another familiar face in Papa N’Doye. The Senegalese striker, who was given the chance to play in the preseason with the first team, has since been having a good season. If he continues with good performances in MLS NEXT Pro, he could maybe break on to that first team roster sooner rather than later.
Not only did we see these eleven guys in the starting lineup, but coach Bundy as always, loves to use his substitution opportunities. His philosophy of “Next Man Up” has instilled a culture where all the guys in the game day roster for DynaDos are ready to compete. “Listen, I talk about this a lot, but it’s the next man up, right,” Bundy said after the match. “Even when we add players, we’re always trying to add players to create competition. To push everyone in every position.
We saw Joyner Castillo, Paulo Lima, Sterling Pennington-John, and Cesar Cordova come in off the bench and contribute. The man who sealed the deal with a 93rd minute a banger, Diego Gonzalez, also came in off the bench. Gonzalez’s goal, which made the game 2-0, upped his tally to two goals this season. Fun fact, I’ve met Diego’s dad and he’s a cool dude.
After the match, coach Bundy spoke about the team’s response after suffering a lost week and being able to come back this week and pick up three points. “I’m really happy with the response from last week, Bundy said. “I’m really happy with the fact that the guys had a great week of training. They prepared well. We knew Colorado was going to throw some new things at us that we hadn’t seen all season. They’re very well coached. They’re very detail oriented. They have a lot of good players. I think coming into this game after the first loss, you always are looking for the reaction from the players. I’m really happy with the intensity that the boys brought in the good moments and the bad moments. To score two goals and keep a clean sheet, obviously that’s one of our goals every game, to score multiple goals and keep clean sheets and everything’s kind of built around that. So, I’m excited for the guys. I think for me more than anything it shows them that even through adversity, they can respond.”
Dynamo 2 will be back on the road next weekend when they travel to Minnesota to face MNUFC2 on Saturday, May 14 at 5:00 p.m. The team hasn’t had much time at home, but coach Bundy has the boys ready. “We technically haven’t been here (AVEVA Stadium) very much,” he said after Sunday’s win. “To be honest, we played our first two home games here and then the last home game before this we played at PNC Stadium, which is a different venue. The message is very clear every week. It doesn’t matter where we play. The standards are still the same. I think the travel side of things, the club has been fantastic with helping with resources to make sure that our travel is as seamless as possible. But to be fair, it’s one game at a time. We have a three-game road trip. I talked to the boys after the game. It’s really important that they take care of all of the details. To be honest, one game at a time, it doesn’t matter where we play. Our standards are our standards. We know that they’ll be prepared. We know that they’re going to really focus on themselves and the nutrition and hydration and tactically we’ll have them set up to hopefully get results. But again, it’s a great thing to see young guys put in this situation where now you’re at home, it’s a great atmosphere, they’re sleeping in their own bed and now we have to go on the road until June 11. So, this is what we want from the league. We want to put these guys under stress. We want to see what they do when we have trips across the country. So, I’m really excited for the opportunity. Again, it’s about responses. How are they going to respond now that we’re going on the road for three weeks? How are they going to respond when we have a midweek game, and we have a weekend off? All of those things are really exciting to see.”