HOUSTON – Mauro Manotas has played five games in 2019, and has already bagged four goals.
Head coach Wilmer Cabrera has always seen great potential in Manotas, and now the 23-year-old striker is showing signs of fulfilling it.
“Mauro is a player who has a very good strike, he kicks very hard with the right leg, kicks very hard with the left leg, he has good speed – he is powerful, makes good diagonals and is a player who has good dribbling,” said Cabrera. “He can receive the ball in the middle of the field and go face-to-face and get one or two players out of the way with his speed and dribbling.”
Manotas has been working on areas of his game he wants to perfect, like his aerial ability and the timing of his runs, and it seems to be paying off. After scoring just nine goals over 37 appearances in his first two seasons in Houston across all competitions, he reeled off a club-record 25 in 2018 and looks primed for another big year, with two goals in Concacaf Champions League play and another two in the league thus far.
Cabrera says he doesn’t like to compare forwards in MLS, because each player has their unique characteristics. Yet he’s sure Manotas is ready to compete with anyone.
“It’s my job to make sure that he feels comfortable with what he knows,” said Cabrera, “and what he is good, at without trying to imitate anyone.”
The young forward remains somewhat under the radar around MLS, something that his teammate Memo Rodriguez is sure will change this season.
“I think he brings something different than other forwards,” said Rodriguez when asked what Manotas brings to the Houston squad. “I think he is a little bit of both – he can make runs from behind, he can hold up the ball. He basically does everything for the team when needed to and I think he is up there with the [league’s best] goal scorers. And I think he is going to prove himself this year.”
Characterized as a humble player, and one to keep a low profile, Manotas nonetheless has his eyes on a big prize: the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi. In 2018 he came in fourth in the fight for the award – but he is no stranger in winning a scoring title, as he accomplished this recognition with the Colombian Under-20 national team.
“It’s a personal objective I have,” said Manotas when asked about being an early candidate for the Golden Boot. “And if I don’t win, at least be in the top five like last year. Why not dream it and work for it?”