Kandji ready and willing, but challenges await in Houston

Houston's Macoumba Kandji (right) battles Futty Danso during preseason action.

Photo Credit: 
Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

There is a sense of calm in how Mac Kandji discusses moving clubs.

The fifth-year MLS veteran was moved for the second time in his MLS career last week when he was dealt to the Houston Dynamo from the Colorado Rapids, and there’s a “been there, done that” feel to the way he has approached the last week. 

But there is a new wrinkle awaiting Kandji in Houston: playing both sides of the ball in head coach Dominic Kinnear’s high pressure, two-way system.

“I like what they do here, working both sides of the ball, but I’m definitely not used to that and I think it’s something that will help me in my career moving forward,” Kandji told MLSsoccer.com by phone Monday night. “Learning to defend and attack, if I can get that down, it’ll be a tool that will help in the future.”

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With his unique blend of size – the striker stands 6-foot-4 – and speed, Kandji admitted that he has normally been tasked with using those skills to go forward. Now he believes that same athletic blend will help him adapt to his new responsibilities.

“I’ve been in this league five years and playing against [Kinnear] you see his coaching style involves a lot of hard work and pressure,” Kandji said. “I really like that type of soccer.”

Learning his new role is just one of Kandji’s goals in Houston, though.

The one-time European target – Kandji drew overseas interest in 2010 while with the New York Red Bulls – is coming off a year derailed by a knee injury he suffered on the winning goal in the Rapids’ MLS Cup 2010 victory. After a tough year of rehab, he is looking at his move to Houston as an opportunity to put his career back on track.

And for the Dynamo’s part, they’ve been that Kandji has recovered from the injury that limited him to just nine appearances last year, his fewest since his rookie season in 2008.

“That was the one concern we had – he didn’t play a whole lot of games last year,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “Just kind of seeing how he was with another offseason and the [Colorado] trainer said he’s fine. Our trainers have checked him out since he’s been here and so far so good.”

Kandji’s a likely option at forward for the Dynamo, who focus on getting quality service to their men up top.

“It’s a straight 4-4-2 with a lot of hold up play and getting chances in the box,” Kandji said. “I love playing forward and getting in front of goal and creating opportunities to score. So coming here and playing strictly forward makes me excited to get this season started.

“I think it’s a good move for me at this point in my career. To be honest, with Dominic Kinnear and being around the team and coaches, I have a very good feeling I’m going to get back to where I was when I was in New York.”