HOUSTON – Alejandro Fuenmayor had a crowd of reporters around him after the Houston Dynamo’s 3-1 win over New York City FC on Friday night, a match in which the Venezuelan center back netted the Dynamo’s first goal of the game and his second of the season.
“You scored one goal and you think you’re the star of the team now or what?” four-time World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley yelled from across the room in Spanish.
Adolfo Machado — the Panamanian who’s likely heading to his first World Cup this summer and is often paired with Fuenmayor in the Dynamo backline — joined Beasley in teasing Fuenmayor. Machado proceeded to join the crowd of reporters and began asking the Venezuelan a question before retreating in laughter.
It was a short back and forth between Fuenmayor and his teammates, but one that speaks to how fast the 21-year-old has entrenched himself on a Dynamo defense that includes veterans like Beasley and Machado.
Of the Dynamo’s 11 games this season, Fuenmayor has started seven of them and been in the starting lineup for the past five. In two of those starts, the young center back has gone up against world-class strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa, and held his own.
“Working hard day in and day out and giving 100 percent to win my spot,” Fuenmayor said of his efforts to become a starter. “There are great defenders on this team and I need to stay playing at a high level to keep playing.”
Fuenmayor also has two goals in eight appearances with Houston, matching his career total in 71 games with Carabobo FC, his previous club in Venezuela.
“He’s showing that age is just a number,” Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “He has a good mentality and is a professional. He’s adapting [to MLS] and right now he’s one of our most important players on the team.”
Dynamo midfielder Juan David Cabezas echoed his coach’s sentiments on Fuenmayor, adding that the defender plays as if he’s had plenty of high-level action.
As a goalkeeper, Joe Willis has a closer view of Fuenmayor than most others on the field, and he said what’s impressed him most about the 21-year-old is his vision to pick off passes.
“He reads the game very well and able to track runners,” Willis said. “He’s fearless out there.”
Aside from tracking runners, Willis said Fuenmayor has a great sense of positioning.
“He has a mentality that he’s not going to let you beat him,” Willis said. “He’s come up with some big interceptions and some big tackles and big goal-line clearances for us and been a big part of our success this year.”