HOUSTON -- A year ago this time, the Houston Dynamo found themselves deep in offseason mode. They had just announced Wilmer Cabrera as the club’s next head coach, and were trying to retool a roster that finished last in the Western Conference.
“We can’t deny that this season has been positive in all aspects for us," Cabrera said. "After not being in the playoffs to be going up against the Seattle Sounders, the defending MLS Cup champions, is a big accomplishment,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera doesn't want the weight of the difficult task at hand on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field in Leg 2 (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN 1, TVAS 2) to deflate his club's pride. After all, this is the first Houston side to reach this stage since 2013.
"And to go to Seattle, with a good mentality, and with the possibility to play a good game and generate [chances] and make things difficult. And why not?" Cabrera said. "If we can get a result and qualify [for MLS Cup], I think that would be a great merit to close out the year.”
Vicente Sanchez, one of the new faces for the Dynamo this season and a veteran of the game, agreed with Cabrera. He added that every player in the preseason plants the objective in their mind of playing in the final.
Dynamo 'keeper Joe Willis, who's been pushed to the starting lineup because of Tyler Deric’s suspension earlier in the playoffs, has been with the club since 2015 and can appreciate the difference between then and now.
“So far it’s been an upgrade over since last year for sure,” Willis said. “We’re still pushing. We’re not done yet. We won’t be happy unless we get to the [MLS] Cup.”
Houston is riding high on the belief it can turn around its aggregate-goal deficit, in part because of the nature of their larger reversal over the course of the season. For that reason and others, Cabrera doesn’t think he needs to do much to inspire his players.
“We’re playing in the conference finals. We’re one of four teams. We don’t need to motivate them,” Cabrera said. “They’re motivated because playing in a conference finals, after many years of the club not playing in them and having to bring practically a new team [this season], is a positive.”