Jermaine Taylor is a veteran international who has seen and done plenty in his career, but he sounded as excited as a rookie at the prospect of playing alongside DaMarcus Beasley when the Dynamo host D.C. United at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday (7 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
The U.S. national team star is in line to make his Houston debut against United, as is the Dynamo’s other new signing, Honduran midfielder Luis Garrido. “I’m pretty excited to play with him,” Taylor said of Beasley. “Can’t wait for Sunday to come.”
The center back said the arrival of the 32-year-old has lifted spirits in the camp and added a buzz to training sessions. “For the overall group I think it’s pretty good and motivating other guys,” he said. “He’s been pretty good in practice, he’s been good on the ball, he wants to be that guy to make a difference and I think he’s doing that so far. So far, so good.”
Beasley can play in defense or midfield. Garrido also represented his country at the World Cup and the 23-year-old has a reputation as a pugnacious defensive midfielder—hence his nickname, La Fiera (“The Beast”).
“He brings a lot of momentum to the team,” Taylor told reporters on Friday at Houston Sports Park. “He’s not the type of guy who talks a lot in English; but work rate, he brings it to the team, I think overall those two guys coming in are going to make a plus for us. I’m not saying the guys that were here in those positions haven’t done it, but some new faces in the locker room, new faces on the pitch, helps and I think those two guys are going to make a good impact.”
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said that both Beasley and Garrido are fit and “seriously in contention for the game … they’ve had a little bit of a break but Luis was in preseason with Olimpia and we talked to him a little bit about his fitness, he said he feels fine and I think he’s showed that so far in training.”
Houston is seeking its first MLS shutout since the 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 17, which was also the last time the Dynamo picked up three points. D.C. has never beaten the Dynamo in Houston and memorably lost 1-0 thanks to a spectacular Brad Davis goal in the inaugural match at BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12, 2012.
However, when the sides last met, United ran out 2-0 victors at RFK Stadium on May 21 on a miserable night for the Men in Orange, who fell victim to goals from Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe, lost striker Mark Sherrod with a season-ending knee injury and had midfielder Brian Ownby sent off late on.
Taylor has been a mainstay of some very solid units during his time in Texas, so the 29-year-old Jamaican is taking this year’s defensive inconsistency to heart. “I kick a lot of bottles, I really do. Being [angry] at myself most of the time. Some of the time when I sit and go back and watch games, watch clippings of games, I really see where I could have helped out a little bit more. Most of the time I think fatigue has a lot to do with it,” he said.
Taylor said the Dynamo are working hard to tighten up by cutting out errors and doing a better job of closing down opponents, which was a problem at RFK in May. “I think we showed them too much respect, they had room,” he said. “Overall it’s just one on one battles. Overall when you look at our stats in games I think we can do a little bit better but one-on-one battles is where everything starts. Dom always says it, win your one-on-one battles and that will help the team.
“It’s something that we’ve been discussing, we want to tighten up, I’m just hoping on Sunday we can put our [best] foot forward in terms of getting back our winning mentality at home first, then try to pick up points on the road come the following Sunday.” After United, the Dynamo’s next game is a trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders.
D.C. have transformed their fortunes this year after making a number of offseason additions, including longtime Dynamo defensive stalwart Bobby Boswell. Worst in MLS last year with a paltry 16 points from 34 matches, they currently sit second in the Eastern Conference behind leaders Sporting Kansas City.
Ben Olsen’s side beat Toronto FC 3-0 at home on Wednesday and are riding a four-game MLS winning streak, so Kinnear is expecting a stiff challenge as his ninth-placed team bids to move closer to the playoff spots with 14 regular-season fixtures remaining.
“What a great turnaround they’ve had this year. They’ve made a lot of new additions to the team that have been great pieces, they’re playing well, they’re playing confident and they’re one of those teams that when they do get a lead they’re confident and they actually play better. It’s a tough one for us on Sunday, it definitely is,” he said.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.