As Tab Ramos tries continues to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his Houston Dynamo side in his first year as manager, there's the potential for the club's brutal draw in the MLS is Back Tournament as a blessing in disguise.
The Dynamo will face three 2019 playoff sides in Group F of the tournament, beginning with their match against LAFC on Monday evening (8 pm ET | FS1, TUDN, TSN). And while it might make advancing to the knockout phase all the more difficult, it will also let Ramos know where his club stands.
"I think this is a good scenario for us,” Ramos said. “I think this is just what we need. For me as a new coach, it’s important to see what the best teams are doing and how they play, and where we are and how far we need to go, if it’s that far at all.”
That's true even for facing an LAFC squad that will be without 2019 MLS Golden Boot winner and single season record holder Carlos Vela. Although the Mexican star has remained home because of a family issue, Ramos isn't about to underestimate a supporting cast that helped the club earn a record-breaking 72 points last season.
"There’s no question when you’re playing the best player in the league, it does make a difference," Ramos said. "Obviously they have a great roster from top to bottom and they can replace him with another great player, but having said that, not seeing Vela there chances the game a little bit, because obviously he is so dangerous up front. We will stick to doing pretty much what we do, which is we’re going to try to be aggressive from the beginning and focus on our team and just looking forward to playing what’s likely the best team in the league."
If the Dynamo do have an edge, it may be in the matchday climate. The forecast for Kissimmee, Fla. around kickoff is for temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s, with roughly 65% humidity. For all the talk of the Central Florida summer conditions, the temperature and heat index will be about 10 degrees hotter in Houston at the same time (albeit an hour earlier in the Central Timezone.)
"I think it benefits us in a way," said Dynamo midfielder Memo Rodriguez. "We know that Houston is hot, and Orlando here is hot as well. It might be a little bit more humid here, but you can’t beat the Houston heat, so I think it’s going to be pretty easy to transition and adapt to the weather here, and hopefully we take advantage of that during the games."