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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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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