HOUSTON — While most Dynamo players have been busy downplaying the impact of last year’s MLS Cup loss to the LA Galaxy ahead of an MLS Cup 2011 rematch in Saturday’s championship game (4:30 pm ET on ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN/RDS in Canada), one Houston player admitted he would be watching video of last year’s game.
Of course, for him, it will be a first look.
“I didn’t see the game last year,” said Houston midfielder Boniek García, who was preparing for the Honduran league playoffs back in November of 2011. “But I’m going on YouTube when I get home to look for it and know what to expect.”
Of all the differences between the 2011 championship matchup and the 2012 edition, García’s presence looms the largest.
The spark in Houston’s revamped midfield, the 28-year-old was transferred to Houston from Tegucigalpa-based Olimpia in June, but is only now facing the Galaxy (or any Western Conference team, for that matter) for the first time. He will try to reverse the fortunes of the Dynamo, who have not beaten the Galaxy in Southern California since 2007 (0-5-1) and have scored just one goal in their last 480 minutes against LA at the Home Depot Center.
Latino del Año: Boniek García in semifinals
To a man, Dynamo players look to García and expect him to turn mundane situations into threatening ones. "Creativity" is the word most often used to describe what the Honduran international has brought to the Dynamo, and he has certainly made an instant impact.
The Dynamo were 5-5-5 when García stepped into the lineup against Philadelphia on June 30, but they have since gone 11-4-7 in league and playoff games he starts. He has played the full 90 minutes each time, contributing five goals and seven assists and unleashing a variety of inventive passes and dribbling moves rarely seen in Houston.
It's hIs ability to escape pressure and retain control that has most changed Houston’s offense. Defender Bobby Boswell says García’s unerring first touch makes it all possible.
“He reminds you of a Christian Gómez or some of those guys that, even at this level, their first touch is way ahead of everyone else’s,” said Boswell, referring to the 2006 MLS MVP and his former teammate at D.C. United.
“Boniek does have that talent that you can’t teach, which is the ability to take his first touch wherever he wants it to go," Boswell continued. "That sets him up to succeed in other parts of the game, and that’s why he’s so good and why he’s helped us so much.”
García's impact has been felt defensively as well, whether playing wide right or as part of a three-man central midfield triangle; Houston’s defense is more than half a goal per game better with the Dynamo Designated Player (0.91) than without him (1.47). That dedication to being a complete player has aided García’s virtually seamless transition to the Dynamo style of play.
“When we signed him, I watched some videos of him, and it seemed like all his highlights were setting guys up, so it was cool to see we had gone out and gotten a guy who was pretty selfless,” Boswell said. “Boniek was really impressive from Day 1. He runs and goes crazy in practice and crazy in games in terms of how hard he runs. He’s tireless in his work ethic.”
A perfect fit in Houston’s locker room and lineup, García may very well provide the most compelling argument for a different outcome in MLS Cup on Saturday.
For the Dynamo, that would be a video worth watching.