HOUSTON – Alex Lopez has bided his time since coming to the Houston Dynamo.
The Young Designated Player has sat by as he worked his way into game shape and adapted to the club’s playing style. In a US Open Cup game against USL PDL club Laredo Heat on Wednesday night, he finally got his first reward.
Looking to give his team the lead, Lopez took advantage when goalkeeper Jorge Luis Ortega charged off his line, giving Lopez the chance to chip home a beautiful shot to the far side of goal. It was the Honduran international’s first goal as a Dynamo player and secured the club a 1-0 win and advancement to the Open Cup's Round of 16.
“I feel very happy to have scored my first goal and hope it’s the first of many,” Lopez told the media through a translator. “It’s definitely a confidence booster, and I know I have to work to perform at that same level and especially work harder.”
With a goal under his belt, the hope is that the score will provide a boost for the talented player, one his teammates feel can help them win down the road.
Since Houston signed Lopez from Honduran club Olimpia last August, he has struggled to gain his footing. He has battled fitness and a need to learn the two-way style the Dynamo employ. While he has worked to get things going, his teammates have a good grasp of what his abilities can bring.
“He’s got that good creativeness in the final third, and that’s what we’re lacking right now,” team captain Will Bruin said. “For him to think and chip the goalie like that, that shows he’s comfortable, and that’s what we want.”
“He’s still young, and everyone kind of forgets that,” said Dynamo forward Giles Barnes. “He came in as a Young DP, but he’s still a young boy. He’s had a lot of experience in Honduras and had international experience as well. He’s a very gifted player. … He’s got a lot to offer and is great technically and has worked on his fitness as well off the field.”
The 22-year-old showed that attacking promise Wednesday night, but a fellow infrequent starter did not fare as well.
Starting his second game in a row in goal, usual backup Tyler Deric had a strong night cut short when he was shown a straight red card for handling the ball outside the 18-yard box in the 53rd minute. Deric charged off his line to cut down a lane and, after giving the ball away with his feet, admitted he was caught “between two minds” and swatted a Felix Garcia shot away.
“It’s a mental mistake,” Deric told MLSsoccer.com. “I know not to do that. I know, but when you’re out there, the situation got the better of me. I thought I played well up to that point … but you make a mistake like that, and it just ruins your day.”
The card will rule Deric out of the Round of 16 game against the winner of the June 17 clash between the San Antonio Scorpions and FC Dallas.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.