It is a rare weekend without a game for the Dynamo—except for one of the team's key players, who is set for what should be one of the most memorable matches of his career.
Boniek García is in the Honduras squad to face Brazil in an exhibition on Saturday in Miami (beIN Sport, 6 p.m. CT). Naturally, everyone connected with the Dynamo is hoping the winger emerges unscathed from the game. There's only one week to go before Houston meet Sporting Kansas City in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship.
But no one would begrudge the hard-working winger the chance to test his skills against next year's World Cup hosts, who are fielding a strong squad including stars such as Neymar, Daniel Alves and Hulk.
"If it was maybe another country maybe he wouldn't want to go, but I don't think anybody's going to pass up the chance to play against Brazil. It's probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for some people, he was excited about playing and you cannot take away that desire to play against them," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear.
Honduras then have another friendly next Tuesday, against Ecuador—right here in Houston, at BBVA Compass Stadium. While Honduras have qualified for Brazil 2014 and so are planning for seven months from now, the Dynamo are focused on the next seven days.
"Obviously coach [Luis] Suarez has a job to do to get his team ready for next summer, we have a job to do to get ready for Kansas City, one player's involved in both those buildups so fingers crossed … he's healthy and ready to go for Kansas City," said Kinnear.
Even near to the end of a long and exhausting season, and having just welcomed two new additions to his family, the 29-year-old has worked tirelessly on the field. That's a tribute to his character and also a sign of his natural stamina.
"To go from his wife having twins and then flying out and being available for D.C. [the last regular-season match] and all the stuff he's done, obviously he's got a body type that can last and endure, he recovers very quickly," said Kinnear. "He's got a great attitude first and foremost. I think he just loves to play which makes it very easy for him to get focused to play. He's been great for us."
Flair players aren't usually known for putting in stalwart defensive shifts, but since he joined the Dynamo last year, García has proven adept at breaking up attacks as well as starting them. His willingness to track back when Houston lose possession helps him stay consistently involved throughout the 90 minutes, defying the stereotype of wingers tending to drift in and out of games.
One of four finalists for FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año award, Garcia has played in three of the Dynamo's four fixtures against SKC this season. Among players from both teams during those matches he ranks sixth in dribbles attempted—and joint-fifth in tackles. The numbers underline his valuable contributions to both defense and attack.
"He's one of those players that is so good on the ball you don't expect the workrate part from him, but obviously his work rate is fantastic and for the team he's vital," winger Andrew Driver told HoustonDynamo.com. "He deserves to play in games like [Brazil] because he's a top, top player, one of the best players I've ever played with or against. So it's amazing having him on our team and hopefully he can come back fresh and be the difference-maker in the next game."
Striker Cam Weaver echoed Driver's view of Garcia's work ethic. "Absolutely. It's not just him, though, it's everyone on the squad. That's the mentality that's been molded here over the years, if you don't have the workrate you're not going to be on the team," he told HoustonDynamo.com.
"It starts at the top with Dom and it goes down through the whole team, we always stress about working hard both sides of the ball, not just when you're making runs and attacking but defensively keeping organized, everyone working together as one unit. That's been the number one recipe why we've had so much success."
In a sign of the progress he has made with the Dynamo during the summer, Jamaican rookie forward Jason Johnson was also called up by his country, for a pair of friendly matches against Trinidad & Tobago on November 15 and 19. The 23-year-old earned his only previous cap in 2010.
After last Saturday's goalless draw with SKC at BBVA Compass in the first leg left the tie finely-poised, the wait for the return clash is halfway over. "It's a massive game and having this long to wait for it is a bit frustrating," said Driver. "But we've come in [to training], kept ticking over, I think recharged all the batteries and we've got the weekend to continue to recover. Then we'll come back and get the buzz back for next week."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.