“Beast Mode” is a motto typically linked with Houston’s other version of football, but Luis Garrido’s form is proving that it applies just as well to the Dynamo.
The recent signing had perhaps his finest MLS game so far last weekend and the Dynamo are hoping for another tigerish midfield display from the Honduran international this Sunday when the Chicago Fire visit BBVA Compass Stadium (2 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
On a busy night for Houston’s defense, Garrido helped out with some vital interceptions. According to Opta, the 23-year-old attempted five tackles — and won them all. It was the fifth time in his eight games that he's made at least five tackles, and the third time that he has finished with a 100% tackle success rate. He did all of that without committing a single foul for the first time in his short MLS career.
Signed in July from C.D. Olimpia on an 18-month loan with an option to buy, Garrido has quickly lived up to his nickname: La Fiera, The Beast. His colleagues appreciate the work he does to shield the back four, snapping at opponents like a piranha smelling blood.
“Luis had a great game, he was exactly what we were looking for when they brought him in, somebody who can protect the area in front of us, can do the ‘dirty work’,” said center back David Horst.
“In a game where we have to play a lot of defense, someone like him is very important. Where AJ [Cochran] and I are under pressure a lot and if we can’t get good clearances on the ball and the ball comes right back at us, we need somebody like Luis — kind of like a barricade in front of us — and he did a great job on Saturday. It’s not a glamorous job but you need guys like that on our team.”
Garrido does not speak English but Horst said that communication is not a problem. The defender was on loan with the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2010 and picked up some Spanish. “I can get by, I can say left, right, time, on the ball, things like that I can say in Spanish, and I can say numbers in Spanish too. And if I can say a number in Spanish and Luis knows what I’m talking about he goes and gets that guy,” said Horst.
Of any player, goalkeepers have the best view of the action as it unfolds on the field. Tyler Deric enjoys watching Garrido at work. “He’s a beast, you don’t get that nickname for no reason, I love having him in there. He’s always central, he’s always mixing things up, he doesn’t make things easy for the other team,” he said. Cochran agrees: “He’s an engine, he’s non-stop running, he’s a very physical player. He gets stuck into tackles and he’s one of those guys that you just love having in front of you,” the defender said.
After seeing Garrido make two appearances at the 2014 World Cup finals, Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear is not surprised that he quickly looked comfortable in Houston, where he joined two other Honduran internationals, Alex López and Boniek García.
“He just came off the World Cup so that’s obviously good preparation for anywhere you go. And I think having a couple of guys here, Alex and Oscar, makes it a lot easier. He’s played against us before so he does know the players and he knows them from the national team as well. It’s not a hard locker room to really break into, as far as if you show up and you work hard I think you get respect right away,” Kinnear said.
While there are a number of factors involved in the team’s recent improved defensive displays, Garrido has clearly had a positive impact. With him the Dynamo have conceded 1.25 goals per game on average. Without him, the figure rises to 1.6.
Another benefit of the Garrido effect is that it has given his fellow central midfielder, Ricardo Clark, license to get forward and join the attack more often. Clark has four goals this season in only 18 starts.
In need of a victory on Sunday to maintain their playoff ambitions, the Dynamo are sure to pour forward in search of goals — with the confidence that Garrido can help the back line lock down a Fire side that scored three times in their previous match against Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United.
“He’s been given the task at times of shadowing or being around their team’s best player, their most attacking player, so it’s a big responsibility,” said Kinnear. “I think he’s done well in that regard, he pulled off some really last-gasp tackles in the second half [against Philadelphia] that really helped us keep the team off the scoresheet, so we know what he can do. We knew coming in he was that type of player and I think he’s living up to his reputation.”
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.