Wilmer Cabrera - Houston Dynamo
Courtesy of Houston Dynamo Communications

Houston Dynamo look to continue upgrading attack after Alberth Elis signing

The Houston Dynamo are doubling down on their forward line heading into the 2017 MLS season with the recent loan acquisition of Alberth Elis.

Houston played the majority of last season with a lone forward in a 4-1-4-1 formation under interim head coach Wade Barrett. The shift from a 4-2-3-1 under Owen Coyle stabilized the defense but did little up front as the offense kept on sputtering. Houston was one of three MLS teams to score less than 40 goals in the 2016 season, finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference.

The lack of creativity in attack, including service to a lone forward, was on display most games. It took until September for the Dynamo to find a glimmer of offensive hope in Mauro Manotas, who was inserted in the starting lineup in late August and scored six goals in eight games — including a hat trick.

New Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera noted Tuesday that Houston won’t be playing with just one forward in 2017 because, “we don’t have a natural playmaker within the team.”

With no luck so far in finding a playmaker to plug into the team, the Dynamo acquired the next best thing: an electric goalscoring forward with quick feet and skills on the ball to pair with their own quick young forward.

Aside from Manotas, Elis joins a crop of capable forwards that includes Will Bruin and potentially Erick "Cubo" Torres, who could be on his way back from his loan spell at Liga MX side Cruz Azul.

Cabrera revealed that the shape of the team next season will depend on the makeup of the roster, but his message about where Elis could lineup reveals what the coach has in mind.

“We’ve acquired a forward with speed that can play wide or any of the three positions up front, left, center, or right,” said Cabrera. “Right now, we don’t have a natural number 10 so that tells us that we have to change the formation to a 4-3-3.”

The team isn’t done looking for their playmaker either. Cabrera acknowledged that Houston is still looking to fill that No. 10 role but warned that the player selected has to be able to offer more than talent.

“It’s not only a player that has talent but also can fit within the club and can fit within the environment. I’m talking about playing in Houston,” said Cabrera. “So you have to have a player who can have the stamina to play in that environment with humidity, very hot weather and also to adapt and have the mentality to do that.”

The offseason is still in its infancy but the Dynamo’s new loan acquisition signals to the team’s intentions of not repeating the offensive struggles of 2016.