HOUSTON – As a 19-year-old in a new country, Mauro Manotas is making his way.
Since signing with the Houston Dynamo in May, the forward has gone through the ups and downs typical of young players. He’s had highs like scoring in the US Open Cup and twice last week in a friendly against Santos Laguna, and there have been lows like sitting by as a spectator as veterans in front of him carried the load.
But as he’s watched and learned this season, one voice has been constant. That voice belongs to Alex Lima, the 26-year-old Brazilian who has taken Manotas on as his protege by taking him to eat on off days, keeping him involved and providing a firm hand when needed.
“Everybody’s been great, but if I had to pick one guy it's Alex Lima,” Manotas told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “He’s a guy who tells it to me straight. He always tells me what I’m doing right, doing wrong and what I need to improve on. That’s been very important. [Taking criticism well is] something that’s been instilled in me since I was little. Whether they’re good or bad, just take it for what it is and take full advantage because it will benefit me.”
Lima’s a seasoned veteran. He’s been through a career in which assimilating quickly has become a valuable asset. It’s a lesson he learned in his early years courtesy of Jose Luis Mamone. The Argentine took Lima under his wing when he arrived at at Swedish club FC Wohlen as a 19-year-old, showing him the ropes of the league and living in a new land.
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Seven years later, Lima saw a similar player in Manotas.
“When I got there, there was nobody there to teach me many things. I didn’t know how to speak the language or anything,” Lima told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “There was an Argentine that took me under his wing and taught me how the water ran. He would tell me he knows how difficult it is to be in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.
“He took me under his wing, and I do the same thing with Mauro. If he wants, I take him to get something to eat, just get his mind off the training field. I vowed to do the same thing when I had the opportunity.”
With Lima pushing him on, Manotas has come along well in Houston. Everyone in the Dynamo organization that is asked about the Colombian youngster speaks glowingly about his potential and skill on the ball.
When he’s gotten on the field that talent has shown through.
In a start against Santos Laguna in the BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup, he paired well with both Will Bruin and Chandler Hoffman and pulled two confidence-building goals out of it. In what ended up being a playoff-eliminating draw on Sunday vs. the Seattle Sounders, Manotas was called on late to provide a spark.
“It was an opportunity to get him into the team and starting games. We know he’s going to be a top player,” head coach Owen Coyle said. “Goals always take a striker to another level, but his general play was terrific, and that’s what pleased me. He worked hard, he’s got pace, his play’s pleasing on the eye and he scored two goals on the Mexican champions. I think that gives him a tremendous confidence boost. It didn’t surprise me … we believe he’s set for a bright future at the Dynamo.”
One game may remain in the 2015 campaign, but Houston are officially looking toward next season, and Manotas figures to be a big part of what the club wants to do.
“He has a lot of talent, a lot of potential. He has the potential to do really well with the Dynamo,” Lima said. “If he continues to work hard and be consistent, he’ll be a great player in MLS.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.