Keeping humble amid hot start, Houston Dynamo see Seattle trip as key test

HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo are causing a stir, climbing to the top of the MLS standings (at least in terms of points per game) and looking every bit like a playoff team at 6-1-1.

That may have taken some in MLS by surprise, but La Naranja underlined their credentials with Saturday’s 2-1 Texas Derby win over FC Dallas.

While the Dynamo are enjoying their triumphs, head coach Wilmer Cabrera is maintaining a firm grasp on reality – the Major League Soccer season is long and he aims to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

"We're fine, but we've only played eight games,” said Cabrera about his team’s postseason prospects. “We have not completed even 30 percent of what the season is. We can’t accelerate or get too excited. We are not throwing fireworks. Little by little, we are fine.”

Houston’s strong start didn’t happen overnight. It’s a combination of smart moves, adjustments and hard work.

“This is a team that is working hard,” said forward Mauro Manotas, “is keeping to themselves and we hope to put ourselves in the best position so that everyone is aware of what we bring to the table at the end of the year.”

A more solid defense and improved depth have given the Dynamo a more competitive edge that they lacked last year. There’s greater confidence that if one player gets injured, there’s another one to take his place – and internal competition for starting roles.

"With players like Romell [Quioto] or Alberth [Elis], internal competition is good for the team and we always train at 100 percent to be ready on Saturday," said Homegrown PlayerMemo Rodriguez. “We want to continue like this.”

The Dynamo now sit in third place in the Western Conference with 19 points, trailing only LAFC (24 points) and the LA Galaxy (22 points), both of whom have played more games than Houston.

Could the Dynamo be the best team in the West? Only the passing of games will tell, but they aim to give the favorites a run for their money.

One key question: In past seasons the Dynamo have not been a strong team on the road. They’ve only played two road games so far in 2019, going 1-1, while they’re 5-0-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium.

"All the games, at home or away, are going to be difficult. This is a very competitive league," said midfielder Matias Vera. “Winning as a visitor is complicated, but the team is working very well. We are focused on winning the most points we can.”

Houston’s next test is a stiff one: On Saturday they visit Seattle Sounders FC (10 pm ET | TV and streaming info), another MLS Cup contender off to a bright start who sit just one place back of La Naranja in the table.

“We are being solid at home. As visitors, we have played only two games. We are going to play the third and we want to have that solidity,” said Cabrera. “Seattle is a tough and difficult game. They are a great rival and we are going to prepare ourselves in the best way to remain solid and show competitiveness in every way.”