Everyone at the Houston Dynamo knew this day was coming for some time, but the inevitability of Alberth Elis's departure didn't make it any less emotional when it finally did happen.
Ahead of his transfer from Houston to Portuguese club Boavista, Elis returned to Houston's training ground for one final goodbye to the team and staff. The Honduran international wanted to thank the Dynamo for the last four seasons, knowing he wouldn't have gotten the chance to follow his European dream if not for his time at the club.
When he walked through the doors and departed the club for his new adventure, so ended the Alberth Elis era in Houston. There were some lows, including a few seasons without the playoffs, but many highs, including helping to lead the club to the 2018 US Open Cup and an appearance in the 2017 Western Conference Championship.
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“We brought Alberth to the Dynamo as a young, talented 20-year-old from Monterrey where he was going through a challenging moment in his career," Dynamo GM Matt Jordan told MLSsoccer.com. "It’s really rewarding for us to see him grow and take this next step. It’s bittersweet when he leaves, but I think looking at all of it, Alberth leaves the Dynamo as one of the most influential players at this club.”
The transfer itself wasn't straightforward and circumstances didn't make it easy on the Dynamo.
Elis's contract was set to expire at the end of the 2020 season, meaning the club risked losing him for free in January. Thankfully there was plenty of interest in acquiring his services now from multiple clubs and leagues in Europe, meaning the Dynamo weren't going to lose their star without getting something in return.
"What we really like about this opportunity with Boavista is that they’re a partner club of Lille in France," Jordan said. "They’re part of a bigger project, providing a lot of benefits and opportunities with everyone involved. It wasn’t easy, but we think it was a positive outcome for everybody involved.”
No official word on the transfer fee but a source told MLSsoccer.com the fee is "seven digits" and includes a sell-on fee, though Julio César Cruz of Diario Diez reports the fee isn't more than $1 million.
"This transfer is the start of another cycle for us," Jordan said. "We’re excited to embrace the challenge.”
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Truth be told, that cycle has already been started.
Darwin Quintero arrived this winter as part of a sizable attacking corps featuring Elis, Mauro Manotas, Christian Ramirez and others. Then earlier this summer, the Dynamo acquired Ariel Lassiter on loan from Costa Rica's Alajuelense to boost the ranks.
“Listen, there’s never a good time to lose a player of Alberth’s caliber, but we feel good about attacking options moving forward," Jordan said. "We have a good blend of youth and experience in attacking players who we believe complement each other well."
As for the Designated Player slot Elis is vacating, the club may well fill that slot before the Secondary Transfer Window closes on October 29. They are, at least, intent on bringing in another attacker this fall.
“We’ve got several profiles that fit our system of play who we’re looking at very closely to bring in this window," Jordan said. "... It’s important that we target players we believe are young, talented and have upside. I think it’s fair to say that’s a focus of ours."
Of course, as the focus shifts forward, the Dynamo aren't about to forget their past.
“We’re all going to be watching Boavista very closely with Alberth and Reggie Cannon," Jordan said, referring to the former FC Dallas fullback and now Elis's teammate in Portugal.