HOUSTON – When the Houston Dynamo hired Wilmer Cabrera as the franchise’s fourth head coach in October 2016, they did so with the hope of re-establishing La Naranja as contenders.
After reaching the Western Conference Championship in his first year in charge, it can be argued that Cabrera did just that. Now, as he heads into his second season as head coach, the goal is no longer to rebuild but to continue building on last year’s success while implementing new player acquisitions.
A season ago, the Dynamo retooled their roster from top to bottom. Houston brought in a plethora of young players to anchor the attack, and veterans to stabilize their defense. This offseason, the Dynamo continued on that path.
“What we felt was important coming off of last season was to continue and bring continuity to our group, while continue to add pieces that we feel improve us as a team,” Dynamo GM/vice president Matt Jordan said in a phone interview with MLSsoccer.com.
“We feel that we’ve accomplished that the last few months.”
Gone is striker Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, who was sold to Liga MX side Pumas UNAM, which now frees up a Designated Player spot. Vicente Sanchez, a veteran spark off the bench last season, chose to retire, and Houston opted not to re-sign Ricardo Clark, Jalil Anibaba and Alex.
Joining the Dynamo this season are midfielders Arturo Alvarez, a Houston native, and Darwin Ceren. Houston also re-signed AJ DeLaGarza and DaMarcus Beasley, while exercising purchase options for Juan David Cabezas and Alberth Elis. To top it off, La Naranja went shopping in Venezuela, signing 22-year-old center back Alejandro Fuenmayor on a full transfer.
So, is this year’s Dynamo better constructed than the 2017 edition?
“Yes, because we have a core group,” Cabrera said from Tucson, Arizona, where his team will train for the next two weeks.
“This year is not about getting to know each other. It’s about trying to make sure the new guys try to adapt very well. And they guys that have been here, we move forward quickly in all aspects.”
While Houston’s roster hasn’t undergone a complete overhaul, the potential remains to add further pieces. With Torres gone, a DP slot is open, which the Dynamo could fill before the transfer window closes. But Cabrera notes that he won’t be certain of what positional help the Dynamo need until the games begin.
“Right now we have to wait until we play. We have to wait to use the games. We don’t know until we play games and we start the first part of the season,” he said.
“That’s when we’re going to know where the team looks strong and where it looks a little bit weaker. Hopefully, we can adjust really quick.”
Jordan echoes Cabrera’s words, adding that the key priority for Houston this offseason was to retain their core group of guys, adding that purchasing Cabezas and Elis outright was a particularly key move.
“By doing that, it has enabled us to more steadily add where we see there are positions of need,” Jordan said. “That’s what’s been really good about bringing some continuity coming into year two of our new project.”