Why Juan David Cabezas' return has energized the Houston Dynamo

ExtraTime Radio: 2018 US Open Cup final preview

HOUSTON — The Houston Dynamo may be wondering what their season could have been if Juan David Cabezas had not gotten injured in their first match. The 2017 Dynamo Team MVP was sidelined 15 minutes into the MLS regular season opener, and his absence has been felt ever since.

Currently 10th in the Western Conference and on the verge of being eliminated from Audi MLS Cup Playoffs contention, the club has their midfield anchor back for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night (8 pm ET; ESPN2).

“It’s great to have him back,” said teammate DaMarcus Beasley in Tuesday’s presser before the final. “He wreaks havoc in the midfield, he’s a nightmare for any No. 9, No. 10 around him in the middle of the park. He’s a guy that’s always giving 110 percent on the field.”  

The road back from rehab has been rough for the 27-year-old Cabezas. The Colombian suffered an injury to his left quad at the end of the 2017 season ­– a detail that was revealed for the first time in a radio interview with soccer commentator Glenn Davis last week.

After re-injuring himself in the opener, Cabezas missed nine consecutive matches before returning to action briefly in a 3-1 home win against New York City FC on May 25th. He would suffer another relapse and miss the next 16 league matches.

Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera suggested a trip to the midfielder’s home country to seek rehabilitation with Dr. Cristian Quiceno, Sports Medicine Physician at Club Deportivo La Equidad Seguros, according to an interview Cabezas did with ESPN Colombia. Quiceno also helped Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torresrecover from injury in late 2015.

Cabezas finally returned to action two weeks ago in a 4-1 win at home against the Portland Timbers, playing 45 minutes after coming in at halftime. He was greeted with hugs from all his teammates and applause from the home crowd.

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers | September 15, 2018

“Having not had him for seven months, we have suffered,” said Cabrera after the win over Portland. “We have suffered by not having our best player. Any team would suffer. If you take Messi out of Barcelona for about seven months, I think they're going to suffer...We have suffered seven months without having Juan David, but fortunately today that chapter is closed.”

In his return, Cabezas was glad to be back but focused on rectifying what is left of the campaign, including closing out the cup run with a win.

“Undoubtedly, a series of imperfections have been committed throughout the tournament,” said Cabezas. “Even so, when the outlook looks so complex and difficult, it is when achievements can satisfy more. I am completely sure that if we continue working the way we are doing, thinking about the next game, which is the most important, we can surprise when maybe no one expects anything from us."

His presence alone has instilled a new confidence in the Dynamo and could prove to be the clincher in Wednesday’s final. Whatever the result, he will surely be key to the team’s chances.

“We know that, in front of us ­– being in the back four ­­– if he’s in the lineup, that part of the field is going to be secure,” added Beasley. “He’s that good and he’s that important to this team.”