HOUSTON – When you watch Bryan Salazar, it's not hard to see his creativity. The teenager with the Neymar hair led the Houston Dynamo Academy at the U-18 level, routinely showing that he could beat opponents by himself and provide that creative spark that every team covets.
Doing that against his peers is one thing – doing it against the Dynamo first team brings another level of attention.
That is what Salazar, 18, did two weeks ago in a scrimmage. He took the game to several Dynamo defenders, winning his share of the battles and making a name for himself.
On Thursday, he signed that name on the dotted line of the fifth Homegrown player deal in Dynamo history, becoming the first player that has played at all levels of Houston’s system.
“The first showing, he made a couple of guys look bad on our team. He really tried to go at guys,” defender Bobby Boswell told MLSsoccer.com. “The second time we played him, he was the only guy that got fouled on their team. No one wanted him to make them look bad.
“When you play younger guys, they’re usually nervous and are not really composed. He was both of those. I think he doesn’t have a lot of fear and that’s what you need. Hopefully he doesn’t lose that."
It was Salazar’s ability to provide the "wow" factor that caught the attention of head coach Dominic Kinnear.
“I think when you watch him play, you notice him right away because of the things he can do with the ball, running at teams and running at players,” Kinnear said. “I think he shows a lot of potential. I think he’s a very good player with a lot of promise and hopefully that promise can be fulfilled with us.”
Fulfilling that potential is now Salazar’s full-time job. The teenager, who was being courted by NCAA heavyweights including the University of North Carolina, will continue to train with the Dynamo Academy until his graduation from Fort Bend Bush High School June 7 and will train with the first team during breaks from school.
At the next level, Salazar will have to work on keeping that fearlessness and creativity while sharpening the other skills: becoming a two-way player, learning the game and adapting to the physical nature of MLS.
“It’s going to be a good learning curve and a good locker room for him to learn how to be a day-to-day professional,” Kinnear said. “You can’t expect him to come in and start for the first team. His expectations are work hard every day, get some minutes with the reserve team and if he continues to improve, push his way into the 18.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.