HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo have a lot of lineup questions to answer before Tuesday’s Western Conference Championship Leg 1 bout against the Seattle Sounders, but the most important one could be where Adolfo Machado lines up.
The Panamanian defender, who’s been an iron man for Houston having played in 33 regular season games in his first season with the club, has lined at center back for the majority of his time in MLS but has played on occasion at right back.
That shift to right back has been out of necessity more so than his coach’s preference.
“Machado can play center back or right back because he plays those positions for Panama,” Cabrera said. “And with us, he’s played center back, and right back when we’ve needed him.”
In Houston’s Knockout Round playoff game against Sporting KC, Machado was indeed needed by Houston after starting right back A.J. DeLaGarza was lost for the season before the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs started with a torn ACL. Machado’s time at right back would be cut short, however, as he would have to slide back to center back after Leonardo exited the Knockout Round game with an injury of his own.
Against the Sounders, Machado could find himself at right back once again with the possible return of Leonardo to the starting lineup. Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera calls Machado’s versatility a positive for Houston.
“It’s two positions he knows very well,” Cabrera said. “It helps us because it gives us different possibilities to try and cover the positions in the best way possible.”
For Machado, there’s no doubt which position he prefers: it’s center back.
The 32-year-old said he’s not a great right back because it’s not his natural position, but noted that any defensive position he plays he has to play hard to repay his coach’s faith in him.
Machado won’t be the only Panamanian in Tuesday’s Leg 1 match. Roman Torres — who scored the clinching penalty in the 2016 MLS Cup that handed the Sounders their first league title, and earlier this year scored the last-minute goal that sent Panama to the 2018 World Cup — will pair with center back Chad Marshall to man the Sounders backline.
Having played alongside Torres with the Panamanian national team, has Machado given any advice to his teammates, in particular the attackers, about how to attack Torres?
“I can give them advice but I can’t share that with you [media],” Machado said. “If I tell you guys the advice it doesn't hold any more value.”
While Machado trains with the Dynamo, his compatriot suited up for Panama during the FIFA international window. Machado’s absence from Panama’s team during the past two international games should be seen as the exception and not the rule.
Cabrera said Machado was not called to the national team for medical reasons as the defender picked up a head injury against Portland.
“Naturally. He’s a fundamental part of Panama,” said Cabrera on Machado’s chances of making Panama’s World Cup roster. “As long as he stays healthy I don’t see why he wouldn’t be called.”
For his part, Machado doesn’t want to evaluate his own chances of making the roster.
“I’ll leave that up to the coaching staff and the media that watch all the games,” Machado said.
“I keep working hard every day and pushing myself every day to aspire to what I long for and what I desire. And I hope to be healthy and well next year to be on coach Hernan [Dario Gomez's] roster for the World Cup.”