There have been plenty of great moments for Boniek García in Houston, but his most recent Dynamo appearance was one of the very best. The playmaker came off the substitutes’ bench against the New York Red Bulls and contributed a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win.
That memorable night was more than two months ago, but the Honduran is ready to put his injury frustrations behind him and is available for selection when the Dynamo host the San Jose Earthquakes at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
With the MLS regular season entering its final third—the Dynamo have only twelve matches left—head coach Owen Coyle is delighted that the veteran international is returning to fitness and hoping that his enforced spell on the sidelines will prove a blessing in disguise down the stretch.
“There looks a freshness about Boniek. In many ways, maybe the injury—because he’s played probably for two years constant without having any sort of break—I’m hoping that gives him freshness,” Coyle told reporters at Houston Sports Park on Thursday.
It’s been a stop-start year for the 30-year-old, who’s in his fourth season with the Dynamo and has been out with an adductor injury. He’s started only ten of the team’s 22 MLS matches, yet has already equaled his goal tally from last year (two) and his three assists in 2015 represents two more than his total from 2014.
“He’s an important player. When he’s at the top of his game, Boniek’s a handful for anybody,” Coyle said. That was especially true against New York, even though the attacking midfielder was feeling below-par. “He was ill the day before Red Bulls and that’s why he sat on the bench to start the game, and the bottom line is that he was electric against the Red Bulls, he was outstanding,” Coyle said.
Now the man who played for Honduras at last year’s World Cup is itching to get back to competitive action. “It was frustrating because I was just coming off an ankle injury and then I had the adductor injury, right in the middle of the season. I was able to play about 15 minutes for the national team against Mexico but it was just tough to get back,” he told HoustonDynamo.com through a translator. “[The leg] is fine, feels 100%, so I’m just waiting for the opportunity.”
While Garcia was out, youngsters Alexander López, Leonel Miranda and Rasheed Olabiyi have stepped up to provide midfield creativity. García is happy to act as a mentor and offer the benefit of his experience.
“I try. It’s good to see that we have so many players that are coming in, leaving their home leagues and home countries to try to make a future for themselves here. So I try at least to provide some advice on the field—‘hey, do this better, or do that, or don’t do that’. I try to do that as often as possible, whenever it’s required,” he said.
The same goes for another new signing: Erick “Cubo” Torres, who arrived last month from Mexico. “He is one of those players that has a lot of talent, it’s obvious from what he has done in his short career so far. It’s going to be good to see him once he’s fully adapted, to see what he can bring to the table. We have to be patient and let him settle,” García said.
“Most important for me is to give practical advice that he can utilize almost immediately—where to go on the field, what to do on the field, how to move without the ball, that sort of thing.”
After making substitute appearances in the past three games, Coyle believes that Torres is “certainly close” to his first start for Houston. The coach is considering deploying a front three of Torres, Giles Barnes and Will Bruin, with the promising 20-year-old Mauro Manotas another enticing forward option.
“I think there’s a nice blend of terrific assets. The one thing I’d say between all four of them is that they’re all goalscorers, and then they have different variables. Cubo’s a very clever player, intelligent in his movement. Giles, clever as he is, has pace and power in abundance. Will I think is improved in terms of what he brings to the team now and Mauro is only going to get better. So with every one of them you’ve got very good assets, great attributes,” the Scot said.
That possibility may not materialize against the Earthquakes, though, with Bruin a doubt because of a knee problem. Midfielders Ricardo Clark and Nathan Sturgis are out through injury and suspension, respectively, while goalkeeper Tyler Deric is also questionable for Saturday.
“We’ve certainly not been blessed by [luck with injuries]. With all due respect it’s not been squad players getting injured it’s more often than not first-choice picks,” Coyle said. “It’s not ideal given that we were looking forward to this [post-Gold Cup] period because we were getting players back.”
Still, while Coyle admires San Jose’s defensive solidity, he believes the Dynamo should enter the match feeling confident after a run of only one defeat in their past five MLS matches, including an impressive 2-0 win over the Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium a month ago.
There’s plenty at stake on Saturday, with Houston four points adrift of the Seattle Sounders, who occupy the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. Dominic Kinnear’s San Jose side are two points behind Houston with a game in hand.
The Dynamo then head for a three-match road swing, traveling to meet the New England Revolution, Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids before rounding off August at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
With ten fixtures against conference rivals still to come there is plenty of opportunity for Houston to gain ground in the standings in the coming weeks, especially if a healthy García can reproduce the form he showed against the Red Bulls and feed the Dynamo’s stacked attack.
“Everything’s in our own hands,” Coyle said. “We decide our own fate.”
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.