The Houston Dynamo U-23 team travelled north of the border to take on their counterparts at Club de Foot Montréal. The long trip was well worth it for the Dynamo, who came out on top in a second consecutive 2-0 victory for the team with players from the First Team and the newly appointed general manager, Pat Onstad, watching from the sidelines.
“It’s a great result. The boys adapted well to the travel and the weather,” head coach Kenny Bundy said. “I’m really proud of the effort. I think that’s the number one thing. For 90 minutes, they really put in a shift and really tried to play the way that we want to play. I think that’s the key point for us. We want to fight to play the way we want to play. And that’s not always easy because obviously you can only control yourself, but I think overall we did a great job of scoring the two goals and keeping a clean sheet.”
After a back-and-forth early portion of the game in which neither team was able to break through, the Dynamo took the lead late in the first half. Forward Joudric Sinda was the first to get on the ball in the attacking third, however he was fouled by the opposition and knocked to the ground. Despite the foul, the referee allowed the teams to play on, giving just enough time for midfielder Danny Rios to gain possession of the ball. Rios then maneuvered his way around two Montreal defenders before getting off a low shot into the back corner of the net.
Houston doubled its lead early in the second half, this time courtesy of forward Diego Rosas. Rosas, the youngest player on the pitch for the Dynamo, was able to find enough space from within the 18-yard-box to get off a clean shot on goal to give the Dynamo a 2-0 lead which would remain the score until the final whistle.
Xavier Valdes helps secure second clean sheet in a row
The Dynamo U-23 team has been led in these last two matches by its defense, which has now not allowed a goal in over 180 minutes of gameplay. A major reason for this defensive success has been the goalkeepers, including Xavier Valdes, who took care of business in the first half of play before being subbed off for Logan Erb in the second half. While Bundy was eager to heap praise on his keepers after the game, he also emphasized that keeping a clean sheet is about more than just successful goalkeeping.
“I think the goalkeepers are a piece of it. They always have a big save in them. Their presence is really important,” Bundy said. “But I think clean sheets come from all the way up front when you press. A lot of credit goes to the entire team for how we press the ball, where we want to win the ball and how we want to make the game predictable. So, I’m really impressed with the one or two saves the goalkeepers have to make a game, and if that’s all they have to do, then we’re doing a great job with the way we’re defending and pressing.”
Valdez, who has been training with the First Team, felt there were areas that he could have improved in this game, but emphasized that the most important result in this match was getting a win in a difficult environment.
“We came out with a 2-0 result away, in a whole other climate,” Valdez said. “You have to be happy with that. I think that I played well. I had some moments where I could’ve certainly done better, but that’s going to be every game. I’ve got to understand those moments that are going to make me a better player and keep improving on those.”
Diego Rosas shows that age is just a number
The youngest player on the pitch on Wednesday also proved to be a difference maker for the Dynamo. Diego Rosas scored an important second goal to pad Houston’s lead in the second half. In addition to the goal, Rosas made his presence known throughout the game, constantly putting pressure on the defense and setting up his teammates with solid passes. For Bundy, Rosas’ skillset is an ideal fit for the Houston Dynamo.
“Diego Rosas fits the way that we want to play throughout the club. It fits the way I want wingers to play,” Bundy said. ‘For him, age isn’t necessarily something that we focus on. Every single player that we have still can develop things. I think we’ve seen over the last two games an evolution of his decision making in the final third, but he’s relentless. He presses. He works for 90 minutes. He’ll get in behind. He does all these little things that a lot of teams, especially when they’re trying to build out of the back, can’t deal with because there’s relentless pressure up front.”
While Bundy was quick to downplay Rosas’ age, the 16-year-old did acknowledge after the match that playing against older competition does impact his game.
“It’s great. It motivates me to do a lot,” Rosas said. “I can learn a lot from them because they’re older. I’m just going to keep going and hopefully can keep getting better and starting more games.”
Cesar Cordova shines in role as a ten
At the academy level, one of the most important roles that a coaching staff has is figuring out which positions to play players in order to maximize their talents. Cesar Cordova is one such skillful player who has not necessarily nailed down his best position. Against Montreal, Cordova played at the 10, a position that Bundy said allowed him to use his sense of space to find the right spots to be in on the pitch.
“Cesar’s been a great player for us because we’ve moved him around different positions trying to find what’s best for him and obviously what the team needs,” Bundy said. “Cesar playing as a 10 today, I thought he was really working hard to try to find the ball in the right areas and he had to do a lot, because they condensed the field, and it wasn’t easy for him. But I think when a player like Cesar Cordova is playing, he takes focus of certain players, which free up other players for us.”