For a team that scored the second-fewest goals in the 2016 MLS season, finding the back of the net just 39 times in 34 games, seeing the ball go in nine times in the preseason Desert Diamond Cup tournament was a welcome sight for the Houston Dynamo.
Head coach Wilmer Cabrera is pleased with those results and the attacking prowess displayed by his team, but said at training this week that there’s still a long way to go.
“The preseason went well because we did the work we planned. We used those preseason games and tournaments to work on our soccer and get the players the minutes they needed,” Cabrera said. “Thank God, everything is going well thus far. We hope we can reflect this work and results starting on Saturday. That is when it truly matters.”
Did any player surprise Cabrera during the tournament and preseason?
“No, to be honest. We have studied them very well and we know their skills, their characteristics, individually and collectively,” he said. “Right now, we’re trying to give them the possibilities to use them the best way possible.”
The results and the high-powered attacking offense has been led by new acquisitions Quioto — who was named tournament MVP and earned the tournament's Copper Boot with three goals — and Alberth Elis and returning forwards Erick "Cubo" Torres and Mauro Manotas. The foursome accounted for six of the Dynamo's nine goals in the Desert Diamond Cup.
Torres, especially, seems to have found his groove again. The Mexican striker, who played under Cabrera in 2014 for now-defunct Chivas USA, notched five goals in the preseason, including scrimmages. After playing as a lone forward last year with Houston – when he did play – he now has the benefit of having Quioto and Elis flanking him on the wings.
With four forwards for three attacking positions in Cabrera’s 4-3-3, though, the competition for playing time will be hard-fought.
“It’s not about who owns the position,” said Cabrera, who has not yet announced his starting lineup ahead of Saturday's season opener against Seattle's defending MLS Cup champions. “It’s going to be who can keep the level, the highest level, playing in each position.”