HOUSTON – Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera was in Toronto during MLS Cup doing media work with Univision, the championship trophy never much more than an arm’s reach away from him.
But Cabrera, speaking to media during the club’s end of the year press conference, said he refused to touch the trophy.
“I want to do it, but I want to do it with my team,” Cabrera said. “I want to do it and that is the dream, that is the goal and we are really hungry about that.”
Cabrera congratulated Toronto FC on their season and added that the record-setting Reds set a good bar for his Dynamo to aim for.
This offseason, the club wants to build on the work it did last winter, which was to improve every facet of the team’s line. The work now goes from rebuilding a team, to maintaining contender status in hopes of reaching MLS Cup.
“For us, it has been important to keep the level of continuity, having key pieces in place in key positions, and it allows us to now just find complementary pieces to improve the team,” said GM Matt Jordan.
One of those complementary pieces the Dynamo hope can aid their continued growth could be the newly-acquired veteran midfielder Arturo Álvarez, a Houston native who spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Fire.
Cabrera said adding Álvarez gives the team a new veteran presence to add to their young roster. He said having key veterans in place to help along younger players like Alberth Elis, Erick Torres, Mauro Manotas and Tomás Martínez was one of the reasons Houston were able to have success this season.
While the Dynamo may have surprised some teams this season on their run to the Western Conference Championship series after three years of missing the playoffs, the club acknowledges it expects a tougher road in 2018.
Cabrera said teams will play Houston differently next season. The Dynamo will be under pressure to repeat and surpass last seasons’ achievements.
“We have pressure, but we like that,” said Cabrera, who played in the 1994 World Cup with Colombia.
“If one does not have pressure in soccer, I don’t think I would be sitting here because all my life I have played soccer and all my life I have lived under the pressure of soccer, which is what moves us, what motivates us and what helps us to find ways to win.”
Having been the underdog for most of the season, Cabrera now wants his team to prepare mentally for the tough road ahead. He adds it's one thing to have success as an underdog; it’s an entirely different equation when there’s a bit of your target on your back.
“There are players and teams that like not being the favorites and when they become the favorites, they falter,” Cabrera said. “We need to measure ourselves because if they’re going to call us favorites, we have to prepare ourselves to deal with that pressure and with the weight of what it means to be the favorite in a match.”