With a new owner in place and stadium renovations underway, it's been a busy summer for Houston Dynamo FC.
They stayed busy in the transfer market, too.
Houston added center back Teenage Hadebe, midfielder Adalberto “Coco” Carrasquilla and forward Corey Baird during the Secondary Transfer Window, hoping to give Tab Ramos' group a midseason boost as they slip to five points below the Western Conference playoff line amid an 11-game winless streak.
“It’s been an extremely busy and productive transfer window for us – we’re really pleased we’ve been able to add three starting-caliber players at an average age of 24 years old," Dynamo senior vice president and GM Matt Jordan told MLSsoccer.com last week. "We feel these moves instantly strengthen the team now while also being key foundational pieces for the future. What I’m most pleased about is it makes the team younger, strengthens each of our lines and increases competition. We’re really pleased with the window.”
The symmetry of adding a key piece in defense, midfield and attack fits well as the Dynamo look to build forward in their new era. Ramos is in only his second season as head coach, while Ted Segal took over as majority owner in June.
The summer began by adding Hadebe from Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor, announced by Segal himself at his introductory press conference. The Zimbabwe international has made five starts with the Dynamo, with encouraging early signs starting alongside Tim Parker, who was acquired in the winter via a big trade from the New York Red Bulls.
“We’re confident that, given time, Tim and Teenage will grow into one of the top center-back duos in Major League Soccer," Jordan said. "He’s a player who played at a high level and he’s 25 years old. Those deals are not easy to get over the line.”
In the week ahead of the Secondary Transfer Window closing, Baird and Carrasquilla followed.
Carrasquilla, 22, is a Panamanian international who joins on loan from FC Cartagena in Spain’s LaLiga 2. With his exploits in Concacaf, he was a known commodity to Jordan and the club's scouting network.
Panama played at BBVA Compass Stadium during this summer's Gold Cup, giving Carrasquilla a preview of his new home as the deal was being finalized.
"What stands out about Coco is that he’s really good at driving the ball from the middle third to the final third," Jordan said. "Going through the first half of the season, we identified that’s an area we want to improve. He covers ground, great at getting out of tight spaces and he’s a competitor. We think he’ll add a lot to our group.”
Baird was another intra-league addition for the Dynamo. The former Rookie of the Year (an award that has since changed to Young Player of the Year) was traded from Real Salt Lake to LAFC in the winter before moving again to Houston before last Thursday's deadline.
“We’ve always thought very highly of Corey," Jordan said. "With the addition of Corey, we feel we’ve added an elite American player in his prime. He can play a variety of roles in the attack, he’s a top professional who brings a winning mentality to the field every day. I’ve been asking LAFC about him for quite some time. It just so happened that things heated up and we’re really happy to have Corey here.”
Houston added a number of players from within MLS this winter, acquiring the likes of Parker, midfielder Joe Corona, midfielder Derrick Jones and forward Fafa Picault in a deliberate strategy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given the challenges we’ve faced in the travel restrictions over the last year, we shifted our focus to the domestic market," Jordan said. "That’s been really positive for us. As restrictions opened up, that provided us the ability to travel to Turkey and watch Teenage and meet with him. Anytime you’re bringing a foreign player to the league, I think it’s really important to watch them live and meet with them first to talk about the project. So with the travel restrictions, we focused on the domestic market.”
Hadebe has been ensconced in the starting XI for about a month, while Baird already made his first start and Carrasquilla his debut as well. The group is full and looking to reverse fortunes of late.
“We’ve been very appreciative of the support Ted has shown since day one of taking over the club, he’s been very involved in our recent acquisitions," Jordan said. "It has been very clear since day one the support he wanted to show for this club. ... Look, we have high expectations [for the second half of the season]. We’ve shown we can compete with any team in the league. We’re looking forward to seeing what this group can do while we build towards the future.”