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Preseason soccer in Tucson

Cabrera looking to add balance to already potent Houston squad

A backline to match dynamic attack to debut at Kino on Wednesday

The 2018 version of the Houston Dynamo had an impressive attack. They started off the season with four different players scoring against eventual champion Atlanta United. They ended the season with 58 goals, more than all but two Western Conference teams that made the playoffs.

However, they also had 58 goals scored against them. That goose egg in the “Goal Differential” stat column meant they finished 10 points out of the playoffs, a rare thing in recent years for a team that has had four appearances in the MLS Cup.

That means that one of the main missions for the Dynamo during their preseason in the Old Pueblo is plugging that leaky backline. Coach Wilmer Cabrera wants a team with more “balance.”

“Last year we were very successful at scoring goals and attacking, but we had too many problems with defense,” said the third-year coach and former Colombian international. “We need to improve our defense without losing the power we had in our past two seasons with attacking.”

The team’s defense will have a new look with a triangle of new players: Argentine defensive midfielder Matías Vera and center backs Aljaž “Kiki” Struna and Maynor Figueroa, who last played for cross-state rival FC Dallas. Draftee Sam Junqua, a left back from the University of California, is also available for the team.

“They are solid and we think they can give us that balance,” Cabrera said.

A big part of achieving that balance is not neglecting the already potent attack. Strikers still on the roster include Mauro Manotas, Ronaldo Peña and Hondurans Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. This season, wingers Tommy McNamara and Marlon Hairston will be additional attacking options to add to an already, shall we say, dynamic offense.

“We know their capabilities and their possibilities to fight for a spot,” he said.

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Wednesday night’s match (6 p.m. at Kino North Stadium) will be against Minnesota United, a team that also had its struggles last season and is playing with a new look, now featuring Kansas City’s Ike Opara and Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso. United played an exhibition against FC Tucson on Saturday and earned a 9 – 2 win.

Cabrera, however, will not be looking for a score like that or even a win. This early in preseason, there is a different goal.
“It’s all about them trying to do the fitness aspect of the game. I don’t want to push them too much to say you have to do this you have to do that,” he said. “It’s about fitness and trying to get the rhythm and trying to get the minutes. Little by little, when we get the minutes, we are going to try to incorporate the tactical aspects.”

“That’s basically what the game is going to be about,” he added.

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Ted Prezelski/TucsonSentinel.com

Houston Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera leads his players in a cool down session at a surprisingly chilly practice session at Kino Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon