It has taken two months, but Macoumba Kandji is finally starting to feel comfortable in his new surroundings.
After coming to the Houston Dynamo in a February trade from the Colorado Rapids, the 6-foot-4 striker has worked to fit into a system that has asked him to do things on the defensive side of the ball he had not previously been asked to do. After putting up a brace in Thursday’s 5-0 scrimmage win over the fourth-division Laredo Heat, he looks to finally be getting settled.
“It’s been tough coming here and getting used to a new system,” Kandji told MLSsoccer.com after Thursday’s win. “[This system] is different than every other team’s in this league. The system here is about working hard and blue collar soccer where you have to play both sides of the ball and have to be 11 men working for each other for 90 minutes non-stop.
“I think this team does it very well and I think I’m getting it just now, so things are starting to go pretty good.”
Playing in systems where forwards are required to track back and defend is something very different from the role Kandji played while with Colorado or New York. On those clubs the speedy forward was tasked mainly with bombing forward at will.
Having to add defensive skills to that attacking mentality has been a challenge, but it looks like the Senegalese forward is starting to get a handle on things.
Kandji has appeared as a late-game sub twice this season and while his blue collar mentality is a work in progress, performances like the one on Thursday show that as he becomes more comfortable he can better fulfill the role head coach Dominic Kinnear wants him to play.
“[Kinnear] likes me going in behind more because of my pace,” Kandji said. “I’m working on that every time and I think I’m getting there.”
That work showed Thursday as Kandji found space behind an overmatched Laredo backline and he exploited it for his two first half goals.
“Every game is important because winning is a habit and scoring goals is a habit,” Kandji said. “It’s good to score because we haven’t really scored a lot of goals yet. Hopefully [our play] reflects that the next game against Chicago and we can get some goals.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached for comment at Darrell.A.Lovell@gmail.com.