Houston Dynamo expect signing of La Liga center back Raul Rodriguez to strengthen backline

The Houston Dynamo front office knew they’d need to address their defense this offseason. And they feel they’ve done just that with the signing of Spanish center back Raúl Rodríguez, whose acquisition was announced Friday.

Rodríguez, whose contract La Liga side Real Espanyol was terminated this week, is expected to slot into the middle of the Dynamo’s backline, an area that was in constant flux last season. The Dynamo expect the 27-year-old center back, whose nearly six-year run at Espanyol came to an end this week after seeing dwindling playing time, brings La Liga experience and skill on the ball to boost the club’s back line performance.

“He’s a player at a very good stage of his career, and we feel he has a lot of very good soccer ahead of him,” Dynamo general manager Matt Jordan told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview Friday.

Jordan spotted Rodríguez on a scouting trip in November and has been engaged in talks to bring him to the Dynamo since.

“We think he’s going to bring leadership to our team, and what’s very good is that he’s coming to us at a very good stage in his career with all the right motivations as to what we’re working for,” Jordan said.

The announcement comes a day after the club added to their attack, signing Argentine midfielder Leonel Miranda on loan from Independiente. Terms of the deal were not disclosed per club policy.

Rodríguez has 80 first-team appearances for Espanyol since making his debut in 2010 and has squared off against some of the best in the world while playing in Spain’s top flight. The Dynamo also like his ability to play the ball out of the back and control the ball and break pressure, a needed dimension for the club.

“First and foremost, we need defenders who can defend and stop some very good attacking players in MLS,” Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle told MLSsoccer.com by phone Friday. “Having said that, once we get possession of the ball, we want to be able to pass it, and Raúl Rodríguez will certainly add that. He’s played against some of the best in the world in La Liga and done very well and obviously has tremendous defensive qualities, which you need against those players. But he’s also very technical and comfortable with the ball … that alludes to what we’re trying to do.

“We’re trying to build a squad that’s capable of competing against the very best, and Raúl Rodríguez will certainly help there.”

Houston’s defense was certainly a weak spot in 2014. They conceded a franchise-worst 58 goals and struggled to keep the same center-back pairing on the field, rotating David Horst, AJ Cochran, Jermaine Taylor and Eric Brunner through the lineup.

Signing an experienced player in Rodríguez could help solidify that situation.

“I knew there were a few European teams that tried to sign him at different times, so to bring someone of that quality to the club we’re absolutely delighted,” Coyle said. “We think at the age he’s at he’s hungry, and he wants to be part of the Houston Dynamo as well.”

Rodríguez must obtain his P-1 visa and International Transfer Certificate before participating with the club, and the club hopes to have his paperwork in order by the start of training camp Jan. 26.

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.