The Houston Dynamo U-23 team took on FC Dallas II at Houston Sports Park on Wednesday afternoon, finishing in a 0-0 draw.
Despite not getting a positive result, there were plenty of positives for head coach Kenny Bundy and his staff to take away from this game, particularly from the first half when the Dynamo dominated possession and got off a number of dangerous chances.
Academy Director Paul Holocher was in attendance and said he was pleased overall with the team’s performance.
“I thought it was a very good and competitive match. I really like how we played in the first half, we dominated the half and pressed really well. They had a tough time getting out of their side in the first half. The second half was more of a transitional half, but our guys dealt with a lot of open field situations and it was definitely a healthy competition.”
This “healthy competition” was fueled in large part by the attacking combination of Juan Castilla and D'Alessandro Herrera, who were both in and around the goal for long stretches of the game and placed plenty of pressure on the Dallas defense. On the other side of the ball, the Dynamo were led by their goalkeeper Xavier Valdes, who despite not having to deal with too much danger from the Dallas attack, played a role in managing the defensive assignments and keeping the backline together.
Juan Castilla shines with MLS debut on the horizon
Anytime you get an MLS rostered player in a game against U-23 players, it is likely that they will put out a positive performance. This was certainly the case for midfielder Juan Castilla, whose high-level of technical skill and soccer intelligence helped lead to a dominant first half for the Dynamo.
The performance comes just days after Houston Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos suggested that fans may see Castilla, who became the youngest Homegrown player in franchise history when he signed in 2020, make his senior-level debut before the end of this season.
How Castilla would perform if given the opportunity is still anyone’s guess, but the 17-year-old is confident that he has put as much effort as he can into succeeding at the professional level.
“I’ve been working all year for it. Every day I train with the first team and I just try to learn as much as I can,” Castilla said. “Whenever the opportunity comes, whether it’s now, tomorrow or next year, I’m just trying to be ready to be able to go out on the field and contribute as much as I can to the team.”
Xavier Valdes keeps a clean sheet
Another difference maker for the Dynamo in this game that has been training with the first team is goalkeeper Xavier Valdes. While the goalkeeper did not have to deal with much danger in the first half, as Houston dominated possession for most of the game, his vocalness and leadership were crucial in helping the defense stifle Dallas.
According to Paul Holocher, the reps that Valdes gets with the first team have been crucial in his development.
“It means so much to train every day with the professionals. You can see strides for sure,” Holocher said. The confidence level when he comes out here is fantastic and he just needs to keep training with them every day so he realizes that he’s not just a capable but a competent part of that first team environment.”
For Valdes himself, he felt that the team played well in this match but that there are improvements that still can be made.
“I think there’s definitely some good moments to look at on the film. We can’t be too mad about anything but we have to realize that we made some mistakes, but you have to look at the video and improve from there,” Valdes said.
D’Alessandro Herrera provides crucial energy burst
One other player that stood out throughout this match was Castilla’s partner in the central midfield, D'Alessandro Herrera. Even though Houston was not able to find the back of the net in this match, this is no fault of Herrera’s, whose stellar passing provided his teammates with numerous chances to convert.
Herrera, who was making his first start of the season, was satisfied with his own performance after the match.
“I felt like I did well,” Herrera said. “I contributed a lot to the team in my first start of the season. So, I was a bit fatigued towards the end but overall, it was a good performance where we just didn’t get the result.”
The Dynamo U-23s will next play at home on Monday at 10