Juan David Cabezas isn't the flashiest player on the field, nor the one most likely to show up on the scoresheet, but the Colombian has loomed large in the middle of the park for the Houston Dynamo all season long.
The 26-year-old midfielder has been a key piece in Wilmer Cabrera’s rebuild of a Houston side that failed to reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in their previous three seasons. Now only two games away from featuring in the MLS Cup Final, Cabezas looks to deliver a trophy to a franchise that had been accustomed to winning them regularly.
“We have a great momentum; we should take advantage of this moment,” said Cabezas. “We know that it is a tough game, it will be tough. We need to prepare the best way possible. We need to fix little details that need to be fixed.”
That attention to detail and the levelheadedness of not getting too high on recent results is the culture change that Cabrera has brought to Houston. It is those qualities – along with championship-winning experience – that the manager emphasized when signing players in the offseason, and Cabezas fit the profile to a 'T'.
He won a league title with Cali in 2015 and another last year on loan at Independiente Medellín. At the national level, Cabezas was part of the Colombia U-20 side that won the 2011 Toulon Tournament – along with now-Boca Juniors forward Edwin Cardona and Bayern Munich midfielder James Rodríguez.
Cabezas made 19-straight appearances in the starting lineup after only starting once in his first six matches for Houston. He ranks sixth in minutes played for the Dynamo this season and has been the insurance policy that allows the attacking corps of Erick Torres, Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and Mauro Manotas to press higher up the field.
The club has an option to buy the player outright at the end of the 2017 season but no statement on if they will exercise that option will be made until the end of the Dynamo's season. Cabezas has expressed a desire to stay in Houston while noting that the decision is not his to make.
For now, he is only focused on the present playoff run that continues on Tuesday when Houston hosts Seattle Sounders FC in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship (8:30 p.m. CT | FS1, Fox Deportes).
“It is a rival of great weight in the league that has been playing very well,” Cabezas said of the reigning MLS Cup champions. “They are a very compact team that plays very well with the ball, but when they are attacked with variants, more than anything in the middle of the field, we can make a difference.”