The Houston Dynamo have found an answer for their depth issues on the flanks and in the process made MLS history.
In the league’s first-ever intra-league loan, Houston have acquired Tony Cascio on a one-year loan from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for a one-year international slot. Cascio, 23, will join the Dynamo ahead of preseason, and the club will assume his contract and rights for the year with an option to keep him permanently.
While the history of the deal is one thing, for the Dynamo it lands the club a talented, young attacker with versatility to impact the game from several positions – all traits coveted by head coach Dominic Kinnear.
"When he gets the ball you always get the sense that he wants to make something happen by running at players and taking guys inside and outside,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “When he gets the ball, he’s not afraid with his first touch or second touch to go at a player, which is what I’ve thought is one of his better traits.”
Taking the game to defenders from the wings is something Houston is known for considering they possess two of the more dangerous wide players in the league in Boniek García and Brad Davis. Cascio – who can play both flanks as well as in the center as a midfielder or second forward – has shown the ability, albeit not at Garcia or Davis’ level, to bring some of the same traits.
And that will surely come in handy as the Dynamo dip into their depth to cover potential trips World Cup for both of his new teammates. With Andrew Driver still a free agent and no true winger on the roster behind the pair, the door was wide open to introduce Cascio, a player Kinnear has liked since his days at the University of Connecticut, into the mix.
“I liked him when he came out of college,” Kinnear said of the 14th pick in 2012 MLS SuperDraft. “I thought he was a deserving of being a first-round pick.”
The attacker showed he justified that pick on the field with a strong rookie campaign, starting 18 of his 29 appearances and notching three goals and three assists. Despite the early success, Cascio is still a young player developing his game and 2013 was a different situation. Caught in the mix of a talented midfield and fighting a sophomore slump, Cascio’s playing time fell; he appearied 13 times and scored just one goal.
Though his time and production dropped last year, that did not deter Kinnear. The Houston boss will be looking for Cascio to contribute while he develops along the way.
“I liked him after his first year,” Kinnear said. “Even watching him play last year when he did in Colorado, I think he’s a good fit for us. I really do.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.