They call Luis Garrido the Beast.
And the new Houston Dynamo midfielder’s play more than backs it up. The diminutive Honduran bounces around the pitch, breaking up plays and closing down opposing players at a high rate.
“I think he gets quicker when he sees someone with the ball,” Dynamo forward Giles Barnes said. “He doesn’t miss. He gets the ball, keeps it moving, and when you need the tackle he does it for you.
“Claude Makelele was the same: That kind of player that could get around the pitch and make tackles and is very comfortable on the ball.”
That’s high praise. The French star Makelele was the engine for some of the best teams Europe has seen in the last decade. Makelele was able to keep control while others benefitted from his defensive prowess.
One player that’s benefitted directly from Garrido is Ricardo Clark. As Garrido locks down the park, the former US international has been free to expand his role and be a box-to-box threat.
A pair of bulldog midfielders, together they’re able to cover seemingly every blade of grass, which goes a long way to winning the midfield battle. In nine games together, the Dynamo have compiled a 5-2-2 record and earned four shutouts heading into Saturday's away date with the New York Red Bulls (5 p.m. CT; NBCSN, live stream at NBCSports.com).
“He does make it easier for me to look for those open spaces because I know he’s going to cover that ground,” Clark told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s been helpful for me and for the team.”
While Garrido’s work rate is frenetic, his play is very controlled. For all the tackles and break-ups, he’s averaged just two fouls per game compared to five tackles per game in nine starts. For a hard-charging midfielder it suggests a unique technique.
“It’s important he doesn’t make a lot of [fouls] because he’s making sometimes last-ditch tackles or he’s sometimes covering for defenders,” Barnes said.
The Garrido-Clark partnership is not without hiccups, however.
There is a clear language barrier and some overlap in duties. And while they’re not the sole reason for the Dynamo’s late season push, they’ve shown what adding a mix of bite and know-how can do for a club.
“We have guys here who can translate for him and me so it’s not that big of a deal,” Clark said of the language barrier. “He’s been good for us in the midfield. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult, but at the end of the day he makes it easier with his work rate and ability to cover ground and work for the team.”
Clark sees some of his old self in Garrido.
The 31-year-old former US international did a very similar job for Houston’s championship winning teams and early in his MLS career. Now he sees the same type of traits, the work ethic and ability to sweep in front of the backline in Garrido.
“A lot in my early career I was strictly a d-mid, especially in MLS my first go-round,” Clark said. “That was pretty much my job, to cover the ground, keep it simple and support the attack. Luis has done well with it.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.