NEW ADDITIONS, NEW DYNAMO?

2020 Houston Dynamo season preview: Playoffs or bust under Tab Ramos

Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo take the field for their 15th professional soccer season and ninth at BBVA Stadium when they take on the LA Galaxy in their opening match on February 29. Major League Soccer is also celebrating its 25th season as the league expands to 26 total teams with the addition of Nashville SC and David Beckham's Inter Miami CF.

Head Coach - Tabaré "Tab" Ramos

Tab Ramos, the first player ever signed to Major League Soccer, returns to the league in its 25th season after spending a decade as coach of the U20 U.S. National Team. Photo: Bryan Salas / Houston Dynamo

Perhaps the biggest offseason signing for the Dynamo happened off the field as Tab Ramos was announced as the club's fourth Head Coach in November. The Uruguayan was a midfielder in his playing days and represented the United States in three FIFA World Cup tournaments. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005.

Ramos will debut as a manager of a professional club after working as a U.S. Men's National Team assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann from 2014–2016 and heading the U20 U.S. Men's National Team from 2011–2019.

Tab Ramos' coaching staff is reinforced by his longtime assistant Omid Namazi and Pablo Mastroeni, a former MLS Head Coach with the Colorado Rapids.

Houston Dynamo 2020 Technical Staff

Head Coach - Tab Ramos
Assistant - Omid Namazi
Assistant - Pablo Mastroeni
Goalkeepers - Paul Rogers
Head of Performance - Paul Caffrey
Head Athletic Trainer - Chris Rumsey
Assistant Athletic Trainer - Casey Carlson
Director of Equipment Operations - Chris Maxwell
Assistant Equipment Manager - Ed Cerda

2020 roster

Colombian forward Mauro Manotas, 24, has 48 goals and 15 assists in MLS regular season play since joining the club in 2015. Photo: Bryan Salas / Houston Dynamo

Goalkeepers:

  • 1 - Marko Marić
  • 26 - Michael Nelson
  • 5 - Cody Cropper

Defenders:

  • 2 - Alejandro Fuenmayor
  • 3 - Adam Lundkvist
  • 4- Zarek Valentin
  • 5 - Aljaž "Kiki" Struna
  • 15 - Maynor Figueroa
  • 18 - Jose Bizama
  • 28 - Erik McCue
  • 29 - Sam Junqua
  • 32 - Kyle Adams
  • 36 - Victor Cabrera

Midfielders:

  • 8- Jose Guillermo "Memo" Rodriguez
  • 10 - Tomas Martinez
  • 11 - Thomas "Tommy" McNamara
  • 12 - Niko Hansen
  • 14 - Marcelo Palomino
  • 22 - Matías Vera
  • 24 - Darwin Cerén
  • 27 - Óscar Boniek García

Forwards:

  • 7 - Alberth Elis
  • 9 - Mauro Manotas
  • 13 - Christian Ramirez
  • 19 - Michael Salazar
  • 21 - Ronaldo Peña
  • 23 - Darwin Quintero

Offseason additions / subtractions

Goalkeeper Marko Marić, 24, will be the starter in his first season with the club. Photo: Houston Dynamo

The Dynamo made a bit of noise early by signing former Liga MX star scorer Darwin Quintero (pictured at the top of the article) as an intraleague transfer from Minnesota United. The team also hired a new starting goalkeeper in Croatian Marko Maric. It was otherwise a quite offseason for the club.

MLS SuperDraft selections FW Garrett McLaughlin and MF Luka Prpa were signed to second division affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC. On the homegrown front, the Dynamo finally came to terms with former Academy prodigy Marcelo Palomino who took a year away from the club to pursue other potential suitors.

Departures

  • DF DaMarcus Beasley - Retired
  • MF Marlon Hairston - Traded to Minnesota United FC
  • GK Joe Willis - Traded to Nashville SC
  • FW Romell Quioto - Traded to Montreal Impact
  • MF Eric Bird - Contract option declined
  • MF Juan David Cabezas - Contract option declined
  • GK Tyler Deric - Contract option declined
  • DF A.J. DeLaGarza - Contract expired
  • DF Kevin Garcia - Contract expired
Additions
  • FW Darwin Quintero - Trade with Minnesota United FC
  • DF Zarek Valentin - Trade with Nashville SC (acquired from Portland Timbers in Expansion Draft)
  • DF Victor Cabrera - Trade with Montreal Impact
  • MF Marcelo Palomino - Free Transfer, Homegrown player
  • GK Marko Marić - Purchased from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
  • GK Cody Cropper - Free Transfer
  • DF Kyle Adams - Promoted from USL affiliate RGVFC

The Star - Alberth Elis

Honduran Forward Alberth Elis, 24, enters the final year of his contract and is expected to depart the club on a free if he is not resigned during the year. Photo: Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Alberth Elis has made his intentions clear - his ultimate goal is to play in the English Premier League. To get there, he needs to get to Europe sooner rather than later. With the Dynamo unwilling to part ways with the offers that have come in for him already, Elis' best opportunity to leave is after his contract expires. In the final year of his contract, Elis can sign a pre-contract as soon as this summer.

In the meantime, Elis can raise his stock with interested European clubs by dazzling on the field as he has since joining the club in 2017. Few players in MLS, if any, can match the Honduran's speed and the winger has been influential in the team's attacking corps during his time in orange.

Elis has lacked consistency and his form has dipped near the end of the season in previous years. That not withstanding, he is the most talented player on the roster and one of the top players in the league on his best day.

The Cleaner - Matias Vera

Argentine midfielder Matias Vera, 24, joined the team in 2019 and was voted the season's Most Valuable Player. Photo: Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Matias Vera is one of the best finds in recent years for the club. Acquired from Argentina's San Lorenzo for a reported transfer fee of around $1 million in 2019, Vera has been "the cleaner" in front of the defense.

He was rightly voted the MVP of the 2019 season after providing a dependable level of consistency from start to finish. At the moment, there is no player on the roster that provides what he does in defensive midfield, meaning the Dynamo are thin at that position if Vera gets injured.

The Captain - Boniek Garcia

Honduran midfieler Oscar Boniek Garcia, 35, is the most tenured Dynamo on the roster. Photo: Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Oscar Boniek Garcia has been with the club since 2012 and is an example of professionalism. Originally a winger when he arrived, Boniek has shifted inward into midfield as part of reinventing himself and extending his playing career.

It's no surprise to see him wearing the captain's armband this season. What will be a story to follow if how much playing time he sees this year. The 35-year-old is at the tail end of his career and the Dynamo have to start looking for his replacement this season.

Dynamo broadcasters preview 2020 season

Dynamo TV play-by-play announcer Glenn Davis and color commentator Eddie Robinson, a two-time MLS Cup Champion with the club, previewed the season on this week's Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis.

Expectation - MLS Cup Playoffs

After missing the MLS Cup Playoffs in five of the last six seasons, its playoffs or bust for the Houston Dynamo. The expectation and the standard should be playoffs as more than half of the league is granted entry into the postseason.

It's a toss up from there for the Dynamo as far as lifting the MLS Cup, and from that perspective it's the same old Dynamo. While the club expects to "compete" for the MLS Cup, the gap between them and the true contenders is wide in terms of difference makers.

With one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Dynamo are gambling on the "moneyball" way to a championship. Perhaps the better bet for a title, and one with similar prize money and a berth into the Concacaf Champions League, is the underappreciated Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - a title the club won in 2018.

Players who left their mark

The 5 Best SuperDraft Picks in Houston Dynamo history

Will Bruin remains the Dynamo's second all-time goalscorer in MLS play.

The MLS SuperDraft used to be a solid provider of reinforcements for the Houston Dynamo during the Dominic Kinnear era. The 2020 edition, which takes place on Thursday (11:30 a.m. CT, ESPN app/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube), will be the 15th time the Dynamo participate in what is otherwise known as the annual college draft.

The following is a list of the five SuperDraft selections that left the biggest on the field impact for the Dynamo.

5. Danny Cruz (41st overall, 2009, M)

Midfielder Danny Cruz was the club's first selection in the 2009 SuperDraft, coming at 41st overall (Round 3, pick 10) after trading away their first and second round picks. Previously a member of the United States Under-17 National Team, Cruz made six appearences off the bench in his rookie season.

He became more influential during his next two seasons, scoring in his first professional start in 2010 and helping the Dynamo return to an MLS Cup final in 2011 after scoring the goal that clinched their playoff berth. Cruz was traded to D.C. United before the start of the 2012 season.

4. Kofi Sarkodie (7th overall, 2011, D)

Sarkodie was part of the U.S. Youth National Team that finished in the Round of 16 at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup and a member of the 2010 NCAA Champion Akron Zips before joining the Dynamo. He was part of the club's back-to-back MLS Cup final appearances in 2011 and 2012, starting in all six playoff matches of the latter.

In total, the right back played five seasons in orange before reuniting with Dominic Kinnear in 2016 at the San Jose Earthquakes.

3. Corey Ashe (26th overall, 2007, M)

Corey Ashe was a regular substitute during his rookie year, appearing in 22 matches during the regular season as part of the 2007 MLS Cup championship team. He went on to be a staple on the left side of the field, eventually making the switch in midfield to left back, for nine seasons which included MLS Cup appearances in 2011 and 2012, two MLS All-Star nods and a call-up to the 2013 U.S. Men's national team squad that won the Concacaf Gold Cup.

2. Will Bruin (11th overall, 2011, F)

Will Bruin was drafted by the Dynamo in the 2011 SuperDraft and went on to become the club's second all-time goalscorer in MLS matches. For six seasons, the "Dancing Bear" never featured in less 18 MLS starts per year and looked to be the heir-apparent to Brian Ching. He was less consistent in his later years and was traded to the Seattle before the 2017 season.

1. Geoff Cameron (42nd overall, 2008, M)

The Dynamo did not have a pick in the first two rounds of the SuperDraft after having utilized them in player trades during their MLS Cup winning 2007 season. All other teams except Chivas USA had selected at least once before them.

In comes Houston at 42nd overall, the final pick of the third round, and takes the player that arguably went on to have the most complete career from those in the 2008 SuperDraft.

Cameron was a versatile player coming out of college. A midfielder with an attacking mentality, Cameron would later become the Dynamo's solution in defense as a centerback.

He freatured in over 100 MLS regular season matches and helped the Dynamo to a 2011 MLS Cup final appearance. After call ups to the U.S. Men's National Team, he would be sold to Stoke City where he went on to play five seasons in the Premier League and feature for the U.S. in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

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