HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo need to make up the current 12-point gap from the playoff zone in their 12 matches remaining this season. But the four newest players the club officially presented to the media on Friday could provide a major boost.
MLS veteran midfielder Eric Alexander, along with summer transfer loanees Yair Arboleda, Keyner Brown and José Escalante, will all look to help the Orange rise up the Western Conference rankings. The next opportunity is Saturday night’s home match against high-flying Toronto FC (9 pm ET on TSN4 in Canada; MLS LIVE in USA).
“I’m going to bring some competition to the group,” Alexander said on Friday. “We have a very strong midfield here, and I think I can help push some guys, they can push me and we can bring the level up and improve overall play.”
The 28-year-old Alexander was obtained in a trade with the Montreal Impact on July 22. He's already seen playing time in a home draw to San Jose and a road loss at his former club. He was an MLS Cup finalist with FC Dallas in 2010, and won the 2013 Supporters’ Shield with the New York Red Bulls.
Another immediate contributor to the Dynamo will be Brown, the Costa Rican central defender. The 24-year-old, on loan from Herediano, could see some playing time as early Saturday vs. Toronto FC. That's due to injury (Raul Rodriguez is questionable, Agus is listed as probable) and disciplinary absences (David Horst is suspended) in the Dynamo’s backline.
“I am the first Costa Rican to play with Houston Dynamo, and that motivates me to do things right so that more ‘Ticos’ can find their way to this club,” Brown said. “Things don’t always go well but there are 12 games left, plenty of points for the taking. It’s important to keep working because while the numbers allow you [a possibility to make the playoffs], you have to work hard.”
Brown had permission to train with the Dynamo at the beginning of the transfer window but could not take part in talks with Houston because Vancouver had claim to his Discovery rights in MLS. Houston then traded former team captain Giles Barnes to the Whitecaps on July 30, and as part of the exchange, received signing rights to Brown. The Dynamo proceeded to sign him on loan at the Aug. 3 deadline.
Brown considers MLS one of the better leagues in the world and mentioned D.C. United’s Alvaro Saborio and Vancouver Whitecaps’ Kendall Waston as motivation to immigrate to the United States. He hopes MLS can propel him to a return to the Costa Rican national team for the first time since the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Escalante has also followed MLS from afar, specifically the Houston Dynamo, because of fellow countrymen Carlo Costly, Luis Garrido, and now teammate Oscar Boniek Garcia. The 21-year-old Tegucigalpa native joined the Dynamo’s USL affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC back in March in hopes of working his way to the first team.
“When I debuted in the CONCACAF Champions League with Olimpia, I got to play against Dynamo, so I have very fond memories,” Escalante said. “I always dreamed [of this] and now I am here with the opportunity to do things right.”
Escalante played 15 matches under former MLS head coach Wilmer Cabrera at RGVFC, and produced three goals and two assists. His loan move from Olimpia to Houston was also finalized on the Aug. 3 transfer deadline day.
The injection of youth includes 20-year-old Colombian winger Arboleda, who joins on loan from Santa Fe. Arboleda played 45 minutes last week with RGVFC, but will have to wait for minutes in MLS as he will rejoin RGVFC for this Saturday's USL match vs. Seattle Sounders 2.
“I’m very happy to be with Houston Dynamo,” he said. “It’s a very important opportunity that life has given me and I want to make the most of it. In the time that I spend here, I want to give the most I can to the team.”