In preparation for MLS’ new youth development league, the growth of Houston Dynamo FC took an important step forward on Saturday as the team’s U-23’s traveled to San Jose to compete in a pilot match against the Earthquakes. Four first team players participated, including midfielder Ian Hoffman. 

"It was a nice mixture of training with the first team and jumping in with the U-23s at the end and I thought it was good that we were all on the same page,” said Hoffman. “I thought that as a team, we are new, but we have a good bond. They (Dynamo Academy) play together with the U-19s, and all the guys know each other. It was a nice mixture of me and Mateo (Bajamich) coming down too. It will definitely look good to have some of the guys with the first team come down and have a good mix to help us develop and make a more consistent push to earn minutes with the first team as well." 

It was a big occasion especially for Hoffman, who was handed the captain’s armband for the first half of Saturday’s pilot match. For those in attendance, the pride the former U-20 YNT midfielder took in the choice was apparent – but he was sure to say more. 

"Whether that is with the first team or the U-23s, to represent the club and what it stands for, it is an honor,” beamed Hoffman. “To have the armband, I was excited about that. As far as our performance, obviously we have things to work on. Regarding my performance, I would like to think that I worked hard, but I had a lot of things that I must improve on as well. Hopefully I can work on those things, talk to the coaches for feedback, and then get first team minutes as soon as possible.” 

Not only were four first team members in the U-23 squad, but about half of the Dynamo’s traveling delegation – including head coach Tab Ramos – were present for the match. 

"Awesome, super exciting,” said Hoffman on the first team’s attendance. “Super nice to have them around and just mix in the first team and U-23s, which I think is important to be able to integrate the younger players into future training sessions with the first team." 

Hoffman not only left San Jose with a victory and the captain’s armband, but a new nickname as well. Following a series of clean yet ferocious slide tackles tracking back on defense, the U-23 coaching staff affectionately donned him a new nickname – The Butcher. 

"I don't know about that,” said Hoffman with a laugh when asked about the new moniker. “I made a few slide tackles, but I would like to think I got the ball on most of them. So, I don't mind it."