When Tab Ramos was appointed head coach of the Houston Dynamo after the club's disappointing 2019 season, he analyzed the squad and had a few thoughts.
He shared one during his first conversation with academy graduate Memo Rodriguez: I want to try you at a new position and here's why.
“I felt he was an inside player, not a winger," Ramos told reporters on a video conference call this week. "That doesn’t mean he can’t play wide, but I felt his best position is through the middle as that No. 8 or No. 10, not wide.”
MLSsoccer.com's Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle broke it down a little further:
Rodriguez, 24, enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2019, with seven goals and five assists in just under 1,400 minutes. All three stats were easily career highs, and now he's ready to make more personal bests in 2020.
New teammate Zarek Valentin has noticed.
During individual workouts, the two players often practiced at the same time. They stood apart from each other, of course, but their quadrants of the field were next to each other.
"Seeing the work he put in, dedicating himself to his craft, was inspiring," Valentin said. "It just proved that he belongs at this level, can excel and be one of the better midfielders in this league.
“The sky is the limit for him, he can become an incredible player," Valentin added. "It’s great to see he’s reaping the benefits, but also he’s cognizant of the fact that it’s just one game. He scored two goals this game and now he wants to do it next game.”
The two combined for one of Rodriguez's goals, with Valentin playing a great cross to the late-arriving Rodriguez. The Homegrown Player was thwarted by Kenneth Vermeer on the first attempt before tapping in the rebound.
“I’m his biggest fan, hopefully he’d tell you that," Valentin said. "Well, actually, his mom might go first. But I’m a solid No. 2."