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.

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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