Romell Quioto takes on veteran role for youthful Houston Dynamo attack

Wilmer Cabrera - Romell Quioto - Houston Dynamo - celebrating a goal

HOUSTON – It was a rough end to last season and a tough start to 2018 for Romell Quioto.

Honduras’ joy at pipping the US national team to fourth place in the final round of Concacaf 2018 World Cup qualifying lasted little more than a month, as they lost 3-1 to Australia on aggregate last November in the intercontinental playoff for the final spot in Russia.

Back from Sydney, Quioto and his club-and-country teammates, Alberth Elis and Boniek Garcia, barely had time to get over their jet lag before enduring another crushing defeat over two legs, on this occasion in the Western Conference Championship as the Houston Dynamo slumped 5-0 on aggregate to the Seattle Sounders.

The forward’s hopes of a fast start to this campaign to shake off the lingering disappointment were thwarted by a preseason illness that meant he was slow to reach full fitness – a particular problem for a forward who relies on speed and hustle.

So the early weeks of his second MLS season were quite a contrast to his first, when he instantly made a name for himself by scoring in each of his first three appearances after signing from Honduran club Olimpia in December 2016.

This year, Quioto had to bide his time, making second-half substitute appearances in the first four games before working his way into the starting XI in mid-April. He’s not looked back since and produced an assured fourth-minute finish last Sunday as the Dynamo downed the Chicago Fire, 3-2, for a rare road triumph.

“He wasn’t at his best because he had an injury and then he got sick, but we had to wait with him. But he has recovered; after he recovered he was ready, practicing hard, when he was ready we played him and now he’s been playing very well and we’re happy for him,” said head coach Wilmer Cabrera.

Quioto has now started the past six matches, contributing three goals and four assists, and is looking to continue his good form on Friday night when the Dynamo host New York City FC at BBVA Compass Stadium (8:55 pm ET | UniMás, Twitter - Full TV & Streaming Info).

“Yeah, I feel very happy now. The beginning of the season was tough because I wasn’t starting and I was not fully recovered. Now I am healthy and happy that I am back with the team and having good performances,” Quioto said through a translator.

He might be forgiven a few rueful reflections on what might have been when Australia kick off their World Cup with a clash against one of the tournament favorites, France, on June 16, but Quioto insists that MLS has his full attention this summer.

“We have moved on from not being able to make it to the World Cup. I am focused on the Dynamo now. I will keep working and trying to accomplish my goals,” he said.

Aged 26, Quioto is the elder statesman among Houston’s three main goal threats – four years older than Elis and striker Mauro Manotas. This year he’s placing extra emphasis on creating chances for his teammates as Cabrera seeks to make a side known for its direct counter-attacking ethos more comfortable in possession.

“I think we are a much different team. This year we are a team that plays with the ball more, we are controlling the ball more,” Quioto said. “It’s good for me because with the ball I can create scoring opportunities.”

He has already exceeded last year’s modest tally of three assists in 26 regular season and playoffs appearances.

“He knows that we are expecting more from him this season. Because last season he had a very good start in a few games but then he got injured and then he was inconsistent,” Cabrera said.

“So what we are expecting from him this year is more focus on the team. He doesn’t have to travel with the national team in qualifiers every month or two months, he’s more focused, he’s healthy and now he needs to make numbers. Those numbers are assists, goals and creating chances for the team.”