Houston Dynamo envision Ezequiel Ponce as "focal point"


From the Newell's Old Boys academy to the UEFA Champions League with AEK Athens, and plenty of stops in between, Ezequiel Ponce has scored with regularity everywhere he’s gone.

Is that the sole reason Houston Dynamo FC made the Argentine striker their new club-record signing and Designated Player? Not quite.

Was it a huge piece of the decision? Most certainly.

“For us, the players who move about and are able to adapt and be successful in different leagues, when they come here, it's a good indicator of how they're going to produce here. Normally, these are the types of players who do really well,” general manager Pat Onstad told before Monday's announcement.

“Also, one of the things that endeared us to this is off the field. He's a family guy, he's got a wife and two young kids. They were very excited by the opportunity to come to the United States with the idea of seeing if they can settle here.”

Proven goalscorer

Ponce, 27, just completed a second stint at AEK and played under former San Jose Earthquakes manager Matías Almeyda. He’s produced 92 goals and 19 assists in 308 professional appearances with additional stops at Spartak Moscow (Russia), AS Roma (Italy), Elche (Spain), Granada (Spain) and Lille (France).

Given that profile, Houston are confident they’ve landed a striker who can turn their tepid offense into a trophy-contending one.

“We do a great job progressing the ball into the attacking third, but that's kind of where we fizzle out,” Onstad said. “That's been one of our weaknesses. We're just not able to create many opportunities once we're in that final third. We do think a big piece of that is just not having a focal point like Ezequiel.”

Added Onstad: “He's got great movement in the box and we feel like we don't get enough box occupation, at times, when we're attacking. That's one thing we really liked about him, is he gets in the box all the time. He's always looking for a cross, a cut-back and he has really good movement in there.”

Ferreira and Ponce?

Then there’s the elephant in the room: Houston already have a DP No. 9 in Sebastián Ferreira, their previous club-record signing whose goalscoring struggles resulted in a loan to Brazil's Vasco de Gama last year. Ferreira also suffered a hamstring injury in Houston’s first match this season, a Concacaf Champions Cup contest at St. Louis CITY SC.

Ponce’s arrival doesn’t necessarily mean Ferreira leaves, but Onstad understands why fans wonder how the dominoes will fall.

“It's going to be tough to get two of them on the field at the same time,” Onstad said. “But by the same token, I think it's important that you have cover if things do go wrong or someone takes a little while to adapt. We learned that the hard way at the start of the season by kind of setting it up with one striker.

“I don't have the exact answer to that and I don't think at this stage we're really in a position to put our hand down and say, ‘This is what's going to happen.’ There's a lot of factors that can play into it.”

Onstad also noted how Ferreira is signed through the 2025 season with an option for 2026. Conversely, Ponce is under contract through June 2027 with options to extend through the rest of 2027 and then 2028.

There’s a financial component, too: Onstad said Ponce arrives on a transfer fee that’s “significantly more” than when Ferreira joined in 2022 from Paraguay’s Club Libertad (reportedly over $4 million). Both moves, he feels, show owner Ted Segal’s willingness to invest in the Dynamo as this regime looks to reclaim the club’s glory days.

"Sebastián's also got an opportunity here with some games in front of him where he can hopefully break in and score goals and we see where we go from there," Onstad said.

New element

For now, Houston must wait for Ponce’s debut until the MLS Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 18. When that moment arrives, Onstad believes the former Argentine youth international will unlock Ben Olsen’s team tactically.

“The biggest thing is his movement and desire to get on the end of things,” Onstad said. “That will really help our attack and whether it's him scoring or occupying both center backs, it will open up space for our midfielders.

“Whether it's Amine Bassi, Sebastian Kowalczyk, or Coco Carrasquilla, they can now get into the box and should have a little more space now the defense is concerned about a No. 9 like Ezequiel.”