Tag Archives: Alberth Elis

Stats Don’t Earn Points – Dynamo Fall to Seattle At Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

HOUvSEA: 0-1

The Houston Dynamo returned home last week hot off a road win in Toronto. There was no time to rest, however, as they went up against LigaMX powerhouse Club America on Wednesday.

While the Dynamo had an amazing showing, they narrowly lost after tying in regular time and going to penalty kicks. In MLS standings, they were sitting just below the playoff line and needed three points to keep from falling any farther out of playoff contention. With a solid record at home, Houston being in their fortress on Saturday should have been a recipe to a win. 

The pot began to spoil before the match even started, with the MLS Disciplinary Committee dealing out some late decisions on Friday night. Playmaker Alberth Elis had already served a single match suspension in the last league match after being carded for contact with the referee on July 17. DisCo decided to extend his suspension to include Saturday’s game about 24 hours ahead of the match. 

No one can be sure what Wilmer Cabrera had planned for Elis’s role in the match against the Sounders, especially since Elis started in Wednesday night’s Leagues Cup Quarterfinal. But if Elis was a part of a starting plan or even a contingency plan for Saturday night, the shakeup of removing him from the roster may have been a blow to Cabrera’s plan. 

Regardless of the effect of last minute changes, the Dynamo came out on Saturday night ready to play. Houston ran the match in the first half and had stellar stats at the end of the first forty-five. 

Despite the impressive offensive statistics, the Dynamo finished the second half missing the key one – goals scored.

The Sounders came back in the second half with a renewed sense of purpose and a much better showing. Unfortunately, the second half also brought a lot more chippy play and the referee seemed to be flipping coins to determine what to call and for whom. 

For Houston, when calls don’t go their way and opposing teams start getting physical, they start getting frustrated. The frustration gets into the player’s heads and silly mistakes start. Our midfield, which had been solid in the first half started to falter. The increased pressure on the defense led to a Sounders goal in the 59th minute. The dust up in the box ahead of the goal was sloppy on all ends, and there was at least one foul, but the ref kept quiet and Seattle was up 1-0 at the hour mark. 

The Dynamo continued to try to rally through the last half hour but their inability to get a quality shot past the Sounders revitalized defense held, and Houston lost at home for the second time in MLS play this season. 

Houston does have a bright spot ahead of them this week. Between the US Open Cup, Leagues Cup, and a stacked MLS schedule, the Dynamo have not had a full week off without travel yet this season. They have six full days in Houston to figure out how to make the necessary changes as they try again for three points at home next Saturday against the Chicago Fire.    

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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Who’s Driving This Bus? Houston Runs Leaderless in ATLANTA

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Hmmm…this is new!

Houston had an away match on Wednesday in Atlanta. For Dynamo fans with low expectations for a road match, the team’s odd lineup didn’t instill any confidence, and the match itself managed to duck those expectations.

Alberth Elis was red carded only 6 minutes in, and somehow the loss of a forward destroyed the defense which then killed the confidence of the entire team. Houston lost 5-0. It was awful. That’s about all I have to say about that…but I do have more to say. 

The Dynamo’s summer struggles have been blamed on many different elements. Some believe the ownership needs to open the purse strings to allow for recruitment of bigger-named players. Some think that head coach Wilmer Cabrera is not pushing the team appropriately. Others believe that the team needs a strong, consistent player wearing the Captain’s armband. The commonality across all of these areas? Houston suffers from a lack of leadership at multiple levels. 

Before I quit my real job to be an unpaid soccer fan I worked in Human Resources for almost 10 years. During that time and since, I’ve volunteered in leadership in churches, political groups, a PTO, and other organizations. Industrial organizational psychology is my dream major if I were ever to get to graduate school. I read books on teams and leadership FOR FUN. I’m kind of a nerd about it. So it’s amazing that it has taken this long for me to recognize and call out this issue with my team. 

For years I have tried to be the supportive soccer fan, staying in my lane in the stands and trusting the staff and ownership to do their part for our team. I’ve told myself that the staff have had more training in how to coach than I have and tried to trust their decisions.

I assume that while I invest hundreds of miles on my car each season, the amount of money invested from owners must motivate them to seek out the best decisions for the squad. But as I watched my team struggle, falter, and lose on Wednesday, the reality of the state of leadership sank in. 

As someone who has seen organizations from multinational manufacturing giants to 15 member churches work through leadership deficiencies, I can only imagine that one with as many moving parts as a professional sports team must be a real mess to correct. But there is hope! 

New management in the front office is showing promise and progress – listening to stakeholders and making intrepid changes. While the changes have not been universally welcome, one of my favorite management classics reminds us that Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers

The biggest news in Houston this week is the addition of a Clutch City sports great to the ownership team, which could be the first sign of bold changes to come. Hopefully this innovation will continue to move through other areas and the organization will find its way back on track soon.

While I’m available to my team for consulting at any time (*wink*), I’ll be in my own lane on Saturday supporting the Dynamo as they continue their road trip in Toronto. 

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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The Houston Dynamo’s Road Woes Continue in Cincinnati

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Not that long ago, the Houston Dynamo gave the hometown crowd a play-off worthy performance against the Red Bulls. This was especially necessary as they had just come off a rash of road losses that left fans dejected.

Houston players didn’t even have time to celebrate the win, as they immediately got back on the road to Cincinnati. This was expected to be an easy reintroduction to road points, as Cincy sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The road woes returned with tenacity, however, as the Dynamo fell to FC Cincinnati 3-2 on Saturday night.  

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo Twitter

Sometimes I worry that my articles are more prophetic than observation. Recently, I have discussed the Dynamo’s propensity to allow setbacks that effect their play and highlighted that the team must stop placing their success on one key player’s shoulders. These two factors certainly came together to play their parts in Houston’s loss.

Cincinnati came out swinging with several hard knocks against the Dynamo in the first five minutes. Challenges during these early moments are unlikely to draw cards out of referees, but are most adept at lighting the pilots of the Houston tempers.

The Dynamo respond to the rough play, and Alberth Elis earns his first yellow less than 20 minutes into the match with defensive enforcer Cabezas earning another just five minutes later. With Houston’s focus rattled, the goals started. Cincy scored twice before the first half was done, and the Dynamo faced the familiar foe of being shut out on the road. 

Another factor in the Dynamo’s struggle was the absence of Maynor Figueroa, the Honduran clutch defender. Unavailable due to a red card, his absence shook the back line. The Dynamo have depth in that center back position, but they seem to be lost any time that Figueroa is out of the lineup. This is an issue that Wilmer Cabrera has got to find a way to turn around within his squad – the loss of one player should absolutely not mean a loss for the team.

Houston did stage a comeback in the last half hour. A combination in the 57th minute was Houston’s first good chance at Cincinnati’s net. The Dynamo conceded one more goal – an embarrassing nutmeg on keeper Joe Willis in the 61st minute – but then the team came alive.

Romell Quioto scored the Dynamo’s first goal with a penalty in the 79th minute, and the intense pressure of Alberth Elis panicked a defender into an own goal in the 81st. In the end, Houston couldn’t find the equalizer and left all points in Cincy. Had Willis maintained the 2-0 lead or had Houston played longer at their potential, the day may have gone differently. 

Fans of the Houston Dynamo get brilliance in flashes. At home, we often get a full match and other times it’s just a few moments on the road. The potential is there, but the coaching staff must continue to demand consistency and accountability from the entire team.

The Houston Dynamo come home again on Friday night to defend their unbeaten record in BBVA Stadium against LAFC. 

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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Full Strength Houston Dynamo Come Home With A Vengeance

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

With their full squad back from international duties and back home after a cross-country tour plagued with losses, the Houston Dynamo came to BBVA Stadium on Saturday, June 29, needing a win. The men in orange did not disappoint and stunned the New York Red Bulls with a 4-0 victory. This win maintains the Dynamo’s unbeaten home streak and breaks the winless streak that has plagued them since mid-May.  

Houston’s Starting XI featured the return of Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas up front and Maynor Figueroa in the back, all of whom were expected to shore up the struggles of a June that showed little success on either end of the ball. 

The New York Red Bulls are a great team with a comfortable spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and I really expected a close match. The Dynamo came out with a fire in their bellies, however, and dominated the match from the start. The Red Bulls seemed to really enjoy the efforts of the BBVA grounds crew, as they took many opportunities to get a close look at the grass.

There were plenty of fouls for both sides, but the New York players seemed particularly keen to go to ground. While I was concerned that the constant restarts would affect the flow of the match or that the frustration of the calls would get in the heads of the Dynamo players, the laser focus of Houston was unshakable. 

Whether it was the confidence gained in being back home or having key players back on the pitch, the team that stepped out at BBVA was almost unrecognizable as the team that I watched in June. The players were tough and decisive. The passes were quick and well-placed. The chemistry of the team was amazing for how little time they had to work as a squad ahead of this match. And while I was thrilled with the results and wowed by the level of play, I can’t help but wonder how the team can maintain this level of confidence through the season without shouldering it on just a few individuals. 

The Houston Dynamo must figure out a way to have confidence as a squad and not be crippled by the loss of a key player. GM Matt Jordan is a brilliant scout who has worked hard this year on improving depth, but no amount of bench depth is going to save a team that sees that depth as a supporting cast for a single star. The reality is that introducing stars like Elis and Manotas to MLS may pay off in transfer fees before it pays off in trophies.

Barring any updates from the MLS Disciplinary Committee, the Dynamo will test their confidence again without defensive playmaker Maynor Figueroa in Cincinnati on Saturday. After only one match back from Honduran national duty, he and New York’s Kaku were each sent off after an off-ball conflict in the 94th minute. I expect to be pleasantly surprised by the Dynamo again, and look forward to telling you all about it next week.   

Featured images: @HoustonDynamo

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Undefeated At Home, Dynamo Still Have WORK To Do

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo v. Sporting Kansas City 1-1

Every soccer fan knows that there are some ties that feel like wins and others that seem like losses. The Houston Dynamo’s draw on Saturday keeps them undefeated at home, but many fans left the match wanting more. In a game where Houston saw the return of their Honduran playmakers in the front and back, the midfield that has created so many successful counter attacks was nowhere to be found.  

The SKC rivalry has always been contentious, and since the Dallas rivalry is often conflated pre-match trash talk and post-match bickering, I feel like the SKC rivalry is the one that is most truly felt among the players. This matchup is always physical, but Sporting definitely came in looking to break the rules. At one point SKC’s Melia even came out of the goal box to the penalty spot to take a goal kick, and the official may have let it slide had Tomas Martinez not drawn so much attention. The broadcast showed a quick clip of Martinez’s protest near the 15 minute mark, but there was no other mention of the issue in the broadcast.

The pairing to watch for this opinionated writer was no doubt Alberth Elis and AJ DeLaGarza on Houston’s right side. They spent most of the first half failing to communicate and missing key passes to and from one another. They were each visibly frustrated, and one of my only tweets from the match offered a crowdsourced solution.

This was difficult to watch as these are undoubtedly my two favorite players on the pitch. I love Elis’s speed, skill, and the fact that his stats show a spirit of teamwork, with as much effort in assists as goals. AJ is the personable workhorse whose commitment to his family and charity work on social media builds the kind of goodwill that the Dynamo need to win fans’ hearts – the team’s JJ Watt, if you will.

The right side confusion was perfectly illustrated in the 27th minute when DeLaGarza came forward to support and somehow ended up ahead of Elis and battling defenders in Kansas City’s box. Elis, who had shaken his defenders and found space, was begging for a pass. However in his success against SKC’s defense, DeLaGarza couldn’t draw his gaze up to Elis, and finally lost possession to a two-man challenge.   

The Dynamo were down after a silly mistake when Lundquist was surprised by a run in the 63rd by SKC’s Croizet. Shortly after, my starcrossed players finally got it together in the 69th minute, and the beauty of their pairing was amazing. Maynor Figueroa sent a long ball up and across to DeLaGarza, who headed it to Elis’s feet just outside of the box. A beautiful shot through ill-prepared defenders tied it up for Houston and secured the draw.

AJ DeLaGarza and Alberth Elis celebrate their success on the right side.
Photo: Leslie Chairez

At the end of the match, the Dynamo remained undefeated at home and are still in the top 5 of their conference with games in hand. As many players leave for international duty over the next two weeks (including Elis to Honduras and DeLaGarza to Guam), Houston will again seek success in their depth to begin defending the US Open Cup on June 11. Houston then faces a brutal cross-country, 3 match road stint through the end of June.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez

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The Dynamo Can’t Find Points at Minnesota’s Allianz Field

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo v Minnesota United: 0-1

I spent most of Saturday at a kids’ 5v5 soccer tournament watching my stepson referee. 5v5 is an interesting and fun setup to watch, especially when you’re not invested in either team. One of the tournament rules identifies a line delineating the offensive third on each side of the pitch.

The offside rule states that a single player must control the ball over the line; the ball cannot be passed forward from one player to another over the line. Teams can pass outside of their offensive third and can pass or cross while players are inside, but no pass can cross the offensive third line. Like any offside offense, the opposing team is awarded a free kick from the point where the ball was passed over the line.

It’s a recreational tournament, so while most teams are formed out of competitive leagues, no professional coaches are allowed. It’s amazing that teams show up at this tournament without reading or understanding this important rule.

One early match included a boys’ pre-academy U10 team that had missed the memo about the offside rule. The first half was frustrating for everyone as my stepson blew his whistle almost constantly, and both the coaches and the parents were questioning his calls.

He tried to quickly explain the rules to the kids, coaches, and parents without affecting the play. During the half, he was able to take a little more time to explain so that everyone understood and the second half went more smoothly.

I had the chance to watch the same team play again later in the afternoon and was amazed at the difference. In a matter of hours and with only one more game in the meantime, the boys had completely revamped their tactics and had mastered the new formation, going on to dominate their bracket and come in second overall for their age group.

What does this have to do with my Saturday night and the Houston Dynamo’s match against Minnesota United? For the second time that day, I watched a team dropped into a situation where the formation and method of play was unfamiliar. Unfortunately for the Dynamo, they weren’t able to make the tactical changes necessary to find success up North.

The Dynamo were able to manage lineup changes to win their last match, but the continued absence of Hondurans Alberth Elis and Maynor Figueroa proved unsustainable on Saturday night. Houston was still able to make an impressive show, dominating both possession and passing statistics.

But, statistics don’t win matches and a lucky cross-turned-bender from Minnesota’s Romain Metanire was the game winning difference between the squads. Houston lined up chance after chance but could not convert shots into shots on goal, and more importantly were unable to find the back of the net through the 90′.

The Dynamo coaches and players have got to take a lesson from the U10’s that I watched and find cohesion that supersedes formation. Their offensive and defensive play-makers should hopefully return soon, but the team has got to stop depending on individuals or pairs and find a consistency of play as a team.

Nothing but time will tell if this lesson is sinking in, and fans have their next chance to see them back at home on June 1 against Sporting KC.

Featured image: Web Tilton

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Dynamo Dig Into Depth, Come Up With Three Points

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo best D.C. United, 2-1

The Honduran influence on the Houston Dynamo is undeniable. The team has leaned heavily on the camaraderie and cohesion of their Honduran recruits in the last couple of years, but Saturday night’s match against Wayne Rooney and D.C. United required Houston to mix up its lineup and call on their depth outside of the Catrachos sphere.

Maynor Figueroa, the club’s newest Honduran player, received the news at the end of Wednesday night’s match that his father had lost his battle with cancer. A veteran defender, fans expected him to be a backup in support of some of our younger center-backs, but Figueroa has been a powerful force starting in 13 matches so far this season.

The team paid tribute to Figueroa’s father with black armbands and a special team photo ahead of the match. His absence against D.C. was the first hurdle Houston’s lineup would face.

Fans were thrilled Saturday to see our two Honduran forwards – Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis – finally paired up again in the lineup. This excitement was short lived, however, as Elis took a hard knock less than a minute into the match that led to his removal. Homegrown player Memo Rodriguez replaced him in the eleventh minute.  

The Dynamo defense managed well in the first half, their offense lined up chance after chance but were not able to finish, and the first half ended with a no goal tie.

The second half started seemingly before the Dynamo defense was ready, as Wayne Rooney took advantage of too much space and scored in the 46th minute. The Houston defense woke up after that and held DC United to the single goal while the offense continued to work to find a payoff from several chances.

Searching for an answer to the finish, Coach Wilmer Cabrera pulled our remaining Honduran forward out of the match just past the hour mark. Tommy McNamara replaced Romell Quioto in the 66th minute, and the match pace changed completely.

The Dynamo found the goal they had been looking for in the 67th minute from early sub Memo Rodriguez. And just one minute later, the second substitution paid off with Tommy Mac scoring his first Dynamo goal with a show of pure will, battling United’s Hamid for a cross at the far post and joining the ball in the back of the net.

Photo Credit: Leslie Chairez

While the Dynamo are having an amazing start to 2019 and are still undefeated at home, this match is a landmark in the squad’s season. Lingering questions around their depth were answered and the men in orange proved that personnel changes in any of their lines can be mastered.

Even the unfortunate loss of our playmaker Alberth Elis was managed, which may be important as many expect to see him traded in the summer transfer window. The boost of securing three points against the top team in the Eastern Conference is just what Houston needed.

Hopefully, the Dynamo will take this confidence with them on the road as we visit Minnesota next Saturday night.   

Featured image: @Its_Leslieeeee

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Dynamo and Timbers Draw, 1-1, In Houston

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

The Houston Dynamo and the Portland Timbers are two of the most intense clubs currently playing in MLS. Houston is an underrated squad on a hot-streak with a lot to prove, while Portland is an MLS late model flagship that had a rough start to the 2019 season, frantic to regain status.

When two groups like this meet, especially in the steamy humidity of a late spring Houston evening, tempers rise with the temperature and teams often play powderkeg matches just waiting for a spark.

The match was predictably physical, and the Dynamo once again showed off their offensive dominance in the first half. Portland’s defenders were pushing hard, but the Dynamo were relentless. The incessant Dynamo offense paid off in the 40th minute when Mauro Manotas scored his sixth goal of the season.

The Timbers’s number 4 defender, Jorge Villafaña, stuck to Houston’s Alberth Elis in the early part of the match with aggressive tactics I haven’t seen since the dance floor at my last college party. His handsy defense moved on to cover Boniek Garcia later in the half which would be the spark that this match was waiting for.

Of all of the players on the Dynamo roster, Oscar Boniek Garcia is known for his likability and consistently happy demeanor. The Honduran native is known to play with a smile on his face, so the early signs of hostility toward the Timbers were apparent to most fans around the stadium.

His usual sportsmanlike play was replaced with rough challenges and post-drop stare-downs. As the captain’s patience faded, the rest of the team seemed to match his mood and the play on the field began to show lots of strain.

Even the halftime break was not enough to cool tempers for the Portland or Houston players as the rough play continued with the start of the second half whistle.

At 50 minutes, after a tough challenge in the midfield left Dynamo player Tomas Martinez on the pitch, Portland denied to play the ball out while he recovered. This led to lots of words and more than a few shoves exchanged between several of the players, but no cards were issued as a result of the dust up.

Contentious matches like this one should be controlled by the officials, who can maintain fairness and hold players to a reasonable standard. In this match, the players and the match were in the hands of well-known referee Ted Unkel.

The eccentric officiating favored both and neither teams at different points in the match, and Unkel ultimately concluded the match with no radio after tossing it to the sideline late in the second half.

Portland leveled the match shortly after a 65th minute substitution brought on their recent Argentinian acquisition Brian Fernández, and the match concluded with the 1-1 draw. While both teams played desperately for all three points, I consider the match to be a lucky draw – the real win being both teams walking away with no serious injuries and no disciplinary suspensions.

The Dynamo’s depth will be tested again at their third match in eight days against D.C. United on Saturday at home.

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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Houston Gets 3 Points from Dallas in First Leg of Texas Derby

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo beat FC Dallas 2-1.

Rivalry matches are their own kind of animal, and the Texas Derby is no exception. The first leg between the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas on Saturday had controversy and conflict that paled in comparison to the drama ahead of the match. I played into the narrative with the final lines of my last article, but the situation heated up over the week – sparking into a blaze on Thursday.

Ahead of this season, the front office announced the addition of a cannon in the stadium, perched above the supporters’ section. While it does allude to El Capitán, the oft-traded derby  trophy, this one is orange and will be a permanent fixture in Dynamo stadium.

The original article released about the cannon indicated that the FO would work with supporters to name the new cannon. At the home opener, it was announced that the cannon would be called “Ponce” after an amazing man and fan that the Dynamo family lost in 2016.

Thursday evening, Dallas’s Twitter account released an animation poking fun at Houston’s new cannon, implying that we had purchased our own replacement since El Capitán is currently being held outside of Dallas.

Houston fans were livid and responded quickly. Some reminded Dallas of their own habit of purchasing items that they hadn’t managed to earn, re-sharing a rivalry tweet that I have mentioned. Others called for Dallas to delete the tweet and scolded them for desecrating the tribute to our late friend.

After some initial pushback, Dallas did, in fact, delete the tweet and posted this apology.

The fire had started, however, and Houston fans came into Saturday’s match looking for vengeance.

It appeared that Houston spent much of its passion on the rivalry hype and had little left to bring onto the pitch. While they did dominate gameplay in the first half, the cohesion and finishing finesse that marked the team’s early success was missing.

Turnovers were plentiful, and even our penalty goal in the first half was the result of a lazy dive from Alberth Elis (that’s right, I said it!). The team’s second-half goal from Mauro Manotas was the only hint of the level of play that has been seen this year.

Dynamo fans’ fear of the last 10 minutes, where so many games were lost last season, returned as the final moments brought Dallas’s best efforts, the referee’s strangest moments, and near-tragedy for Houston.

Dallas’s Badji wiped out Houston’s clean sheet with a goal at 87’. Houston’s McNamara received a yellow card at 88’ which the ref reviewed randomly for 4 minutes. Houston defender Cabezas committed a silly foul at 96’ which Mosquera almost converted to a goal, had he not lined up for the free kick in an offside position.

The Dynamo were tied at 2-2 for a full minute before the goal was called back unceremoniously and we were able to walk away with the win. Regardless of how they were earned, we will take those three points and see Dallas again on their home turf in August.  

Featured image: @lesliecphotos

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A One Man Story: Houston Dynamo Fall to LA Galaxy

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Going into last weekend, the Houston Dynamo were rested, undefeated, and ready to battle Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy. While both teams have had a positive start to the season, the Galaxy came in with fewer goals and wins despite more matches played. On both the west and the third coast, previews centered around Ibrahimovic – Houston reminding fans that Zlatan had yet to score on the Dynamo and LA simply painting their social media with his image. For this writer, however, the man to focus on going into this match was Houston defender AJ DeLaGarza.

AJ played for the Galaxy for eight years before coming to the Dynamo in 2017, and the popularity that he had with those fans is still going strong today.

LA’s Angel City Brigade honors AJ’s presence with a banner featuring his charity, LucaKnowsHeart, named for his late son who was born with a congenital heart defect.

Houston didn’t have to wait long to find out why DeLaGarza is so loved, as he quickly thrilled us with a strong Twitter jab at our rivals. The Houston soccer community was immediately won over.

AJ’s social media has continued be a fan favorite – even keeping him relevant through an ACL injury that kept him out for most of the 2018 season. His old posts are an inspiration as I battle my own injury/surgery recovery struggles today.

As the Dynamo traveled to LA for Friday’s match, AJ shared stories of catching up with friends and family. His demeanor early in the match looked as though the time in LA had really fed him. The Dynamo played well and their defense seemed to have a plan to shut down the Zlatan-centered LA attack, up until the thirtieth minute when the man himself – AJ DeLaGarza – panicked in the box and shut Zlatan down with a bear hug tackle that earned a penalty for the Galaxy.

Ibra converted the penalty and finally had his first goal against Houston. LA led the match until the Dynamo’s own offensive superstar, Alberth Elis, received his own penalty shot and tied the match in the 53rd. A Polenta goal in the 88th minute brought victory to the Galaxy, but the stats of the match show a very even game that could have gone either way.

Fans on both sides looked to that bear hug in the box as the moment where the match broke open for the Galaxy. AJ showed his class again on social media – admitting his error, making no excuses, and not shying away from or lashing back at disappointed fans. While the soccer community, LA fans, and Zlatan himself see this match as a story about Zlatan’s victory, I see the man on the other side of that pivotal moment as the true protagonist.

AJ DeLaGarza stands above many others as an example of how to build a dynastic career in one city, transfer and build on that positive reputation, and to survive a defeat with aplomb. Zlatan claimed this week to be MLS, but I believe that players like AJ should define the the league. His positivity and sustained success is what the league needs to continue to grow the fan base.      

Featured image: AJ DeLaGarza, @AJD_20, on Twitter and @LASoccerNation on Instagram

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