It’s the start of a new cycle in Houston, with stars Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas both transferred abroad during the 2020 season. Tab Ramos begins his second campaign as head coach in H-town hoping to vault the team back over the playoff line.

Led by a handful of intra-MLS additions this winter, the Dynamo will look to lean on that experience as well as natural progression under Ramos from those returning to take a step forward in 2021.

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2020 season

  • MLS Reg. Season: 12th place in Western Conference (21 pts - 0.91 PPG - 4-10-9, -10 GD)
  • Audi MLS Cup Playoffs: DNQ

Star Players

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Darwin Quintero
Forward · Houston Dynamo FC

A bright spot in Houston’s difficult season, Quintero had seven goals and 10 assists while finishing third in MLS in chances created. It was his first season at the club after a few successful years in Minnesota. Can the 33-year-old keep it up in 2021?

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Matías Vera
Midfielder · Houston Dynamo FC

Vera anchored the club’s midfield in 2020 and should be a constant once more in 2021. The 25-year-old has started 50 of the club’s 57 games in the last two seasons after signing from San Lorenzo.

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Tim Parker
Defender · Houston Dynamo FC

If the Dynamo are going to mount a playoff chase, Parker is going to have to be among their star players. The center back joins a defensive group in desperate need of a boost while the former Red Bull was in need of a scenery change (more on him below).

Young Player to Watch

Mateo Bajamich
Forward · Houston Dynamo FC

Acquired in October, the 21-year-old Bajamich is yet to make his MLS debut. He spent the offseason on loan back in Argentina, scoring twice in eight appearances. He’s highly rated, breaking through in the Argentine second tier before joining Houston. Bajamich can also play across all forward positions which should yield plenty of time even in a crowded attacking group.

Key Acquisitions

  • Tim Parker: Parker spent three seasons in New York and helped guide the club to the 2018 Supporters’ Shield. Houston were focused on intra-league moves to improve the squad this winter and Parker was the crown jewel.
  • Joe Corona: Corona’s eventful winter that saw him being selected in the Expansion Draft then Re-Entry Draft was one of the best inside MLS moments of the winter, but the former USMNT midfielder should be a shrewd pickup in Houston. He’ll likely slot next to Vera in central midfield.
  • Derrick Jones: When Ramos took charge of the Dynamo, many hoped the club may become a landing place for some of his former players after a decade with the US U-20 national team. Acquired in a trade from Nashville this winter, Jones is the biggest talent to reunite with Ramos in Houston. The central midfielder has bounced around a bit, but was solid in rotational minutes with Nashville in 2020.

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Key Departures

  • Elis & Manotas: Do they count as departures in this space given they both left during 2020? Eh, kind of, hence why they’re lumped in together. It’s a new era in Houston’s attack after the former Designated Players each left during the 2020 season. Elis is at Boavista and Manotas with Club Tijuana.
  • Kiki Struna: Struna was a regular on the Houston backline for two seasons but traded to CF Montréal this winter, with Maxi Urruti heading to the Dynamo. Houston used their top SuperDraft selection on Ethan Bartlow to add to competition in central defense as well.
  • Tomas Martinez: Year over year, Martinez isn’t a huge departure given he started just three games in 2020. A far fall after he started a combined 60 over the two seasons prior, excelling with five goals and 13 assists in 2018. His contract option was declined and he eventually signed for Defensa y Justicia in Argentina.

Projected Starting XI

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2021 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (3): Marko Maric, Kyle Morton, Michael Nelson
  • Defenders (9): Ethan Bartlow, Jose Bizama, Maynor Figueroa, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Ian Hoffmann, Sam Junqua, Adam Lundkvist, Eric McCue, Tim Parker, Zarek Valentin
  • Midfielders (8): Juan Castilla, Darwin Ceren, Joe Corona, Boniek Garcia, Derrick Jones, Marcelo Palomino, Daniel Rios, Memo Rodriguez, Matias Vera
  • Forwards (8): Mateo Bajamich, Ariel Lassiter, Nico Lemoine, Tyler Pasher, Fafa Picault, Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez, Maxi Urruti

Armchair Analyst's Breakdown

  • Strength: Relative to last year this should be a much stronger defensive team thanks to the additions in the back both young (Ethan Bartlow) and old (Parker), brining on Corona and Jones in midfield, and adding two of the league’s best defensive attackers in Fafa Picault and Maxi Urruti.
  • Weakness: Relative to last year this should be a much weaker attacking team thanks to the departures of Elis and Manotas and the advancing age of Quintero. They just don’t have a lot of starting-caliber attacking pieces.

Predictions

  • Charles Boehm: 10th in West
  • Tom Bogert: 12th in West
  • Susannah Collins: 13th in West
  • Matthew Doyle: 12th in West
  • Sam Jones: 10th in West
  • Michael Lahoud: 9th in West
  • Joe Lowery: 12th in West
  • Jillian Sakovits: 10th in West
  • Greg Seltzer: 13th in West
  • Steve Zakuani: 9th in West

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