Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera had a very simple message for his team as they began 2019 preseason training on Tuesday: win.

“Wilmer’s already expressed his mentality with the team, and that’s winning,” said midfielder Marlon Hairston.

“The one tone that was for sure set was that we’re here to win,” defender Chris Duvall said. “That’s it, plain and simple. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what we’re going to do.”

For both Hairston and Duvall, it was their first introduction to the club after offseason moves brought them to the Dynamo. Cabrera’s directive was one they could immediately latch onto.

“Coming into an environment as a player who’s driven to win – to see that from day one is really exciting,” Duvall said.

Coming off an up-and-down season – which saw the team lift its first-ever U.S. Open Cup and qualify for the Concacaf Champions League, yet miss the MLS Cup Playoffs – has allowed the players to see both sides of the coin between winning and losing, Cabrera said. The third-year head coach has had just about enough of the latter, and looks forward to the challenge of an extra competition in 2019.

“The way we are approaching this year, with a mentality where there is more responsibility for us to defend what we have won, to participate in the Champions League and we have to qualify for the MLS playoffs, it is challenging,” Cabrera said. “We love it, we like it and we have the mentality and taken the responsibility to compete in these three competitions.”

The addition of Champions League to the schedule meant that the Dynamo, along with the other MLS participants in the continental championship, began their preseason camp a week earlier than usual to get ready for their first match on February 19, against Guatemalan champions CD Guastatoya.

“I think you feel it already today from training, knowing that in just over four weeks’ time we have an important game,” said VP/GM Matt Jordan after Tuesday’s practice. “There’s already a certain energy in the air, and I think it’s something where that added sense of having those important games early is really positive.”

While it may have only been day one of many as the Dynamo begin the month-long preparations for competitive games, bringing home more trophies is still top of mind for the club.

“Last year for them to win the Open Cup and now to be part of the Champions League again, for me it’s huge,” Hairston said. “I’m happy to come here and be a part of that … I’m ready to get started again.”