Who will step up and replace the productivity that Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis brought the team in recent years?
Houston will come into 2021 trying to re-invent themselves after the departure of two of their best players to ever wear the orange jersey in Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis. The Colombian was 5 goals away from tying Brian Ching’s record of 56 goal scored in MLS matches, while Alberth Elis scored and assisted on a ton of opportunities and his absence was felt when he departed to Europe last season. Now the club will look to start a new era, yet will hope to replicate the dangerous attack they once had. Looking at the current group of attackers, they all seem to have the same characteristic of hard work and flexibility to change positions between playing as wings or striker.
A very raw talent coming out of the second division in Argentina with a ton of upside, Bajamich has shown his potential during the preseason outings that he was apart of. However, do not expect Mateo to be the front runner of taking over the attacking load of the team, at least from the start, since Tab Ramos has mentioned that they will allow Bajamich to develop and settle in to the league. However, knowing that the 21-year-old can play as an outside option as well as striker, helps his chances of finding minutes in this long and treacherous season filled with games every three days or so.
The Costa Rican started strong in his debut by scoring a brace, however he struggled the rest of the season. Ari will have to find the rhythm that he had at Alajuelense, having a fine scoring form. A very athletic player built for speed was poised to take over the right wing, which was open after Elis’ departure, but Lassiter was not up to par for filling the void. After appearing in 16 matches in 2020 and scoring 3 goals, Ramos will ask much more from the son of MLS legend, Roy Lassiter, this season. Surely, he will not lack playing time opportunities, but will he make the best of his chances? Time will tell.
The former San Jose Earthquakes academy player looks to continue to impress Tab Ramos in 2021. Seeing that Nico was not loaned out for playing opportunities elsewhere, like Marcelo Palomino or Eric McCue were, Tab may have a place for Nico to continue developing and accumulate minutes with the first team. Lemoine is a young attacking player that is not afraid to try and beat defenders when he finds himself on a 1-on-1 match up. That is something that Ramos enjoys seeing, however what Nico has lacked thus far, is to make the correct decision when a clear goal opportunity happens.
The former Indy Eleven player has a ton of agility and versatility. Glenn Davis has compared him to Johnny Russell from Sporting KC, and while he does have some similarities, Pasher at 26 will have a lot to prove if the comparison will remain accurate. Tyler was outstanding playing with USL Championship teams but will his playing style transfer to MLS? The Canadian will surely hope that is the case, surely Houston fans hope that is the case, but being one of the first players brought in to reinforce the team, no one will expect more from Pasher than coach Tab Ramos.
Fafa has shown his impressive speed this off season. Speed kills, rumor has it that Austin FC defender Julio Cascante is still trying to catch up to the Gazelle, ha! But seriously, Fafa Picault may find himself in many foot races this season, because one thing that the Dynamo will not lack in the attacking third of the field is speed. Tab is looking to keep control of the possession against every opponent but may find exploding unscripted counterattacks available as well. Either way, if Picault can be a consistent threat game in and game out, the number 10 that he will showcase on his back will bring Dynamo fans much need joy!
Being listed as a Designated Player for the club this season, at 33, Quintero will be a game changer for the Dynamo. His role, however, is still to be determined. Will he start as a winger or in a central position? Will he make the starting eleven or will he come off the bench? Many questions are still to be answered once the season begins, however, his productivity playing on the left wing in 2020 was undeniable. Tab Ramos may be trying to move away from making Darwin the piece that runs his system, but Quintero has magical characteristics that others lack. If Quintero finds success, then Houston will be successful.
No one wants to be the replacement for Manotas more than Christian Ramirez. He works hard and even though he has found success by scoring, Tab Ramos was still playing a struggling Manotas, who seemed so out of it during the harsh 2020 season. Ramirez works very hard, he is probably the only prototype forward out of the bunch, a true number 9. Looking at the rest of the forwards in the team, he is not at all the type of player that Tab’s system fits. However, he has become a fan favorite and fans will hope that his opportunity comes.
Maxi is another player that has seen coaches put him in a wide attacking position. In interviews, when asked about what position he preferred, the Argentine always responded by clarifying that the number or a false 9 is what he aspires to be. And well, Tab has answered that question of course by placing Urruti as the starting striker in his lineup this preseason and he has not disappointed. Maxi is a player with a great work rate and he has shown that he can make a difference with and without the ball at his feet, with a couple of goals this preseason scored by his teammates coming from the high pressure to defenders that Urruti provides. A true professional, the 30-year-old, will compete each practice to be the starting striker for Tab’s system.
Who do you think will take over the three attacking roles in 2021? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.