HOUSTON – A forward with natural talent and speed who can penetrate defenses. That’s how Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera describes Alberth Elis, the club’s new loan acquisition.
Cabrera has followed Elis’ trajectory for some time, monitoring the Honduran striker's performances in CONCACAF tournaments like the Under-20 and Olympic qualifying events. It became clear to Cabrera that Elis is a difference maker, so he recommended him to Major League Soccer.
Now Cabrera is in charge of the Dynamo, and Elis is his first showcase signing.
“When I had the opportunity, the first thing that I approached and commented to [Dynamo GM/VP] Matt Jordan and president Chris Canetti was that he [Elis] is a player that I would love to have in the roster,” said Cabrera in a media conference call after Elis' arrival was announced on Tuesday.
The Dynamo brass were no strangers to the 20-year-old forward. Elis had also been on their radar for the past two years, so after Cabrera’s comments, the Orange set out to track Elis.
Fate intervened last month when Cabrera and Jordan – who were flying back to Houston from Honduras after scouting Elis in Los Catrachos' World Cup qualifier vs. Trinidad and Tobago – saw Elis and his family in the security line at the airport.
Cabrera struck up a conversation with Elis, who shared that he was happy to have signed with Liga MX side Monterrey, but lamented not getting playing time and was considering an exit.
“For me that was the impulse, the alarm, the possibility, the window that I saw [to sign him],” said Cabrera. “From that moment on we started to work with the club [Monterrey] directly and with cooperation with the team, we have the deal done.”
The Dynamo's new coach lauded Elis’ ability to get behind defenses with his speed, adding that his flair at breaking down back lines with his footwork “in today’s soccer, is something very valuable and not easy to have.”
The Dynamo weren’t the only team who sought Elis’ services.
“He’s a player that’s been very sought-after from several MLS clubs, clubs in Mexico and South America and clubs in Europe,” said Jordan. “So we knew we had to be aggressive in pursuing him.”
Cabrera urged Dynamo fans who aren’t familiar with Elis to Google him and watch his highlight videos to see the skills the new forward possesses. Cabrera added that he doesn’t have to sell Elis as an impact player – he already is.
“You can see what he’s done on the field with his national team, the Olympic team, the pre-Olympic team, with [Honduran side] Olimpia, in the Gold Cup, and in the [Copa America] Centenario,” said the coach.
Cabrera expects Elis to be an impact player and difference maker from the get-go, and said the Honduran represents exactly what Jordan and Cabrera want for the Dynamo.
“We were very clear at the end of last season with our offseason objectives,” said Jordan. “We wanted to get younger and we wanted to get more dynamic. We wanted to add more pace and power. And Alberth [Elis] fits that mold to a T.”