HOUSTON -- When Memo Rodriguez entered the game in the 84th minute against the LA Galaxy, his instructions from Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera were simple: Match their intensity and help defend.
The Galaxy brought the game level a minute after he stepped onto the field and were minutes from nabbing a much-needed road point, but Rodriguez more than matched LA’s intensity.
The Dynamo Homegrown player scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute and saved home side from letting three points slip from their fingers yet again this season.
“It feels amazing. It feels just like my first goal, probably even better,” Rodriguez said following the 3-2 win. “The team fought till the end. We knew coming in that the LA Galaxy were going to be an intense team and we matched that and thankfully we got the three points.”
The midfielder, who grew up about 60 miles from Houston, came to prominence as a member of the Dynamo’s USL side Rio Grande Valley FC when Cabrera was coaching the Toros. Cabrera remembers the then 20-year-old Rodriguez as a shy player.
“He was quiet. Working hard and every time he was stepping on the field he was showing all of us that he had something special and he was making a difference on the field,” Cabrera said. “And he became the most important player [for us] throughout that season.”
Rodriguez’s stellar play for RGVFC earned him a recall last season to the Dynamo, where he played in nine games and notched two goals and one assist. Rodriguez has had to bide his team this season to get playing time, and has spent time back at RGVFC while waiting for his chance with the first team.
He played some minutes in the preseason but Cabrera has opted to bring him on slowly this season after Rodriguez injured his right knee last season while logging playing time with Rio Grande Valley. Before the Galaxy game, Rodriguez had only played in two games, logging a total of 15 minutes.
“He’s coming back little by little, getting better and better,” Cabrera said. “When the opportunity opens, he’s ready. And that’s the key.”
The opportunity for Rodriguez came against the Galaxy and the 23-year-old took it by the horns.
“It’s amazing,” Rodriguez said. “My family was here. My friends were here. But overall the atmosphere was great and hopefully, we bring that all season long and we continue to work.”