Homegrown Memo Rodriguez ready to step up as Gold Cup tests Dynamo's depth

HOUSTON – Memo Rodriguez was speechless, unsure of what to do after scoring his first MLS goal.

The Houston DynamoHomegrown midfielder stretched out his arms and did what came naturally to him, running straight towards his teammates to celebrate during Houston's 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday. Afterwards, he explained that he wanted to celebrate with them because they have helped him on and off the field.

Aside from goalkeeper Tyler Deric, Dynamo academy products have had limited luck breaking into the first team, much less making an impact in a game. Rodriguez is hoping to change that – and Wednesday’s goal, the first for a Houston Homegrown since Alex Dixon scored in 2011, is evidence of progress.

The 21-year-old showed poise and confidence when the ball fell to him after it ricocheted off Impact defender Chris Duvall, letting rip from some 20 yards out.

“I was just letting the play progress,” Rodriguez said of his goal. “It was an opportunity to shoot. If it was a better option to give it to Mauro [Manotas], I was going to give it to Mauro. But it worked out in the end and I scored.”

The goal is Rodriguez’s second in a Dynamo jersey, but first in MLS play. His first came in the US Open Cup earlier this season and proved to be an important one, as it helped Houston advance.

“It was at home. In front of my family. In front of the hometown fans. In front of the whole city – so it was a great feeling,” Rodriguez said. “I’m still speechless right now trying to process it.”

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Rodriguez’s goal was also a special one for Dynamo vice president and general manager Matt Jordan.

“Memo’s goal validates not only his hard work but also the hard work of our academy staff, and [head coach] Wilmer [Cabrera] and our first team staff,” Jordan said. “It was very rewarding tonight, holistically for us as a club, for him to score.”

In 2014 Rodriguez became the sixth Dynamo academy product to sign a Homegrown contract, and was quickly loaned out to then-USL affiliate club Charleston Battery for 2015, only to be waived at season's end. He spent last year with the Dynamo’s current USL partner, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, coached at the time by Cabrera.

“He’s been very matured. Very humbled, but also very hungry about everything. He pays attention to all the details,” Cabrera said. “Last year he was with the USL team, with the Toros, he scored seven goals and had more assists than anybody. That shows his quality and that’s why he’s earned the right to be here.”

Rodriguez could see his number called more often with Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres and Boniek Garcia departing for Gold Cup duty. He says he’s ready to be relied upon.

Cabrera concurred, adding that Rodriguez has been making the most of the opportunities he’s earned this season and has brought something to the team.

“Today, was I think the cherry on top of the cake in scoring that goal,” Cabrera said. “That is going to give him more confidence.”