A Big Question: Is that the ceiling for Mauro Manotas? Or an aberration? Or just one more rung on the ladder?
Here, enjoy two-and-a-half minutes worth of goals from MLS's most underappreciated center forward:
Manotas was awesome in 2018, scoring 25 goals across all competitions including two in the U.S. Open Cup final, leading Houston to their first trophy in more than a decade. It was a big performance in a big game.
It was a consistent performance across lots of ultimately meaningless games otherwise. While most of the rest of his teammates were underdelivering or wilting or hurt or just looking out of it, Manotas was constantly in the right place at the right time to give Houston a fighting chance. You can see the types of goals he scored – tap-ins inside the six, blasts from outside the 18, finishing up combination play, skinning defenders with a quick touch, left-footed, right-footed, and (a new feature of his game last year) a few headers as well.
His improvement curve has been steady and linear, and last year felt like the culmination of pretty much all of it. But he's just 23 years old, and it has to be asked: Is this it? Or can he still get better?
Or maybe he comes back to earth just a touch? We've seen that happen with young goalscorers in this league before.
The final answer to all of the above will go a long way toward determining whether the Dynamo can push themselves back into the playoff picture after 2018's absence.