After traveling from Houston on Thursday, the Dynamo trained at the Home Depot Center this morning, working out at Toro Stadium, the track and field facility located near the soccer stadium. The 19 players went through a fairly typical workout for about two hours ahead of Saturday's match against Chivas USA.
Midfielder Adam Moffat, acquired from Portland in a trade on Thursday, met the club at the hotel and quickly introduced himself to teammates and coaches. His Houston career began in lighthearted fashion, as the Dynamo began training by playing a modified form of handball in the penalty area. Goals only counted if they were headed into the net.
With goalkeepers and even equipment manager Mike Porter participating, the spirited exercise saw the blue team win the first two games on goals from Geoff Cameron, on a header, and Eddie Robinson on a 'penalty kick,' on which Robinson had to kick the ball the full width of the penalty area into the net without the ball touching the ground.
In the third game, teams could only score if all 10 players were in the attacking half, and defending teams were penalized for players losing their marks. 6-foot-4 Cam Weaver gave the orange team a 2-1 lead, and the orange team then tried to pass the ball around quickly and keep possession rather than go for a third goal. The blue team then mounted a comeback with a steal and a goal, controversially ruled over the line by goalkeepers coach Tim Hanley, to take a 3-2 win in the final game.
Small-sided possession games, long-range passing, and conditioning exercises followed. The training session concluded with a crossing-and-finishing exercise - three players on each wing setting each other up for crosses to a pair of targets in the penalty area - and finishing for forwards and attacking players. The warm but comfortable temperatures in the 70s were a welcome break from the familiar Houston heat.
Soto making progress
One player enjoying the weather was rookie midfielder Josue Soto. With Brian Ching and Colin Clark suspended, Soto is on the trip and could be named to the 18-man game-day roster for just the second time in his young career. A Dynamo Academy product signed in January out of SMU, Soto has showed in reserve games that he is adjusting to the quicker pace of play.
"The speed of play is very important, especially defensively," Soto said. "I think it's a lot more difficult to keep up with guys here. ... Getting a couple of reserves games has helped me. I feel a lot more comfortable on the ball and a lot more composed. Hopefully with those reserve games coming up in August and September, I can get better."
Soto has played every minute of the Dynamo Reserves season, with his year highlighted when he set up both goals in a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas on May 29. His reward for recent improvement was an appearance as a substitute against English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday night.
"It was a good experience, especially because it was my first minutes with the first team since preseason," Soto said. "It was exciting to be in front of a good crowd and playing against a good club."
Tomorrow's game will air on KHOU 11.2 and FOX Sports Houston Plus, with Phil Schoen and Bill McDermott calling the action.
Ching will appear with Matt Musil on Dynamo Weekly Friday night at 9 p.m. on KHOU 11.2, previewing Saturday's game.
The Dynamo will wear their white jerseys on Saturday for just the fifth time this season; Houston earned road ties in white against Real Salt Lake on May 14 and Colorado on July 3. Moffat will wear No. 16.