HOUSTON – As he did in the 2011 edition of the Gold Cup, El Salvador forward Rodolfo Zelaya has once again sparked interest in a possible future arrival in MLS.
The 25-year-old striker has entranced the American media with his skill on the ball and finishing ability, prompting a report that “seven MLS teams” are interested in his services. And he has readily admitted his desire to ply his trade in the USA.
As the media ponder the best MLS fit for Zelaya, the Houston Dynamo have proven a popular choice. With the Salvadoran community in Houston and Zelaya’s ability to score goals, it seems like an obvious fit.
But while his skills are undeniable, according to Dynamo president Chris Canetti, the odds of him donning the Orange are slim to none. Not because of his quality, but because that’s not how MLS works.
“There’s a process for that to happen in MLS. It’s not about a number of teams, it’s about a team that’s at the head of that process,” Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “He's not a player that we have an opportunity to quote-unquote make a bid on.”
What Canetti is talking about is the first-come, first-serve “Discovery Claim” process by which a team claims the right to acquire a player if they are able to reach a contractual agreement to play in MLS. If that wasn’t enough of a hurdle, the Dynamo would also have to make changes to make the financial part of the deal work.
So while the “fit” is right for the Dynamo, it doesn’t look like Zelaya will be joining Houston. However, the possibility reignites the debate on whether Houston should target another Hispanic player to go with last year’s summer signing of Honduran midfielder Boniek García, perhaps one that can bring out the droves of local Salvadorans who packed BBVA Compass Stadium for their country’s final Gold Cup group-stage game.
“We know there’s a massive Hispanic fan base here in Houston. We’ve tapped into some of it,” Canetti said. “We’d like to have a diverse roster to connect with the community, but that’s always easier said than done.
“We’re a young club that’s trying to build a brand and connect with people. That’s a long-term process,” the Dynamo president continued. “Our position has always been winning championships is the No. 1 priority alongside building a great brand and a great experience for fans. I don’t think anything changes.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.