Houston's crafty veteran Vicente Sanchez sparks Dynamo playoff push

HOUSTON – Vicente Sanchez is 37 years old, but his play on the field has been ageless.

That’s good news for the Houston Dynamo and head coach Wilmer Cabrera, who’s come to rely heavily on the wily veteran as the Orange’s season winds down.

“This is Vicente's time,” Cabrera said at a Dynamo training session last week. And the former Colorado Rapid has responded to his coach’s call.

Sanchez has recorded two goals and five assists in just 204 minutes over Houston's nine games since Aug. 1. He's recorded an assist in each of the past three games, and his five helpers on the season match the MLS career high he set in 2015 with Colorado.

Against Minnesota United on Saturday, the Uruguayan needed only 27 minutes to nab two assists and help the Dynamo secure all three points.

“This week he has played a lot more than what we were expecting, but he’s dealing with that very well,” Cabrera said. “He takes care of himself. He is very good professional and he’s being rewarded. We’ve been seeing and enjoying him when he is on the field.”

Was the plan to save Sanchez all season long and utilize him towards the end of the season?

“Yes, definitely,” Cabrera said. “I spoke at the beginning with him and told him, ‘At the beginning, you’re not going to play much but then we’re going to need you, so keep yourself ready.’”

Cabrera says he had the utmost faith that Sanchez would be ready when called upon.

“If you don’t know how old he is, you would think that he’s the youngest one,” the Dynamo boss said of his creative forward. “But yes, he is very professional. He is pushing and he wants to play. He really wants to play.”

Sanchez has bagged five assists and two goals in just 415 minutes of league play, which works out to about 1.52 goals+assists per 90 minutes. In Houston’s two games last week, Sanchez played 52 minutes and notched three assists.

Those performances aren't lost on his teammates, some of whom are barely half his age.

“We have seen that in the previous matches when Vicente gets on the field, he is a game changer,” forward Romell Quioto said. “He has a lot of experience, and he has helped us with his assists. Let’s hope he continues that way, because he is important for this team.”

Sanchez noted that his age or physical state has nothing to do with his playing time, and that he’s ready to play whether he starts or comes off the bench. But does he feel like he should play more?

“That is not a question for me; it’s for the coaches,” Sanchez said. “Either way, you have to work if you’re on the bench supporting the team because we’re all trying to reach the same objective as a group.”