For MLS rookies fighting for a roster spot, impressing early in camp could make or break their quest. For the Houston Dynamo’s batch of first-year players, that quest to impress will take an uptick in difficulty as the club goes from scrimmaging college and academy teams to facing four MLS clubs during a Los Angeles road trip that starts this week.
“It’s no slant on the teams we’ve played against, but we’re not defending a lot and a lot of what we’re doing is going forward and winning the ball back,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear. “The teams we’re playing next week are a lot better, and we’ll have to defend for long periods of time.”
For the young guys who have shown well against college-level opposition, that step-up in competition will provide an opportunity to display their abilities in stiffer tests.
“The competition’s going to be a lot better and you have to be mentally prepared and can’t just depend on your speed,” said Brian Ownby (pictured above, left), who has turned heads with his pace early in camp and scored twice in a 4-0 victory over Houston Baptist University on Saturday. “I’ve played against MLS teams before and have a good idea of the level of play, but it’s much different now because I’m playing for a spot and it makes you want to go extra hard.”
With different aspects of the game to be tested in the next week, the Dynamo rookies will be looking to get any advantage they can. For some rookies, past experience can aid in the process.
Houston has a number of players who, like Ownby, have played against MLS clubs while in college or with their youth national team. According to Eder Arreola, those experiences can “definitely” help as he and his contemporaries face the next big test in their young careers.
“Competition is everywhere with the U-20s and it helps because it’s the same way here in camp,” said Arreola, who also notched a goal and assist against HBU on Saturday. “It helps me keep my intensity up and know I’m fighting for a spot and keep pushing every day. I think next week is about playing quick and making movements really well and sharp. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing in training, I think we’ll be fine.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.