As one part of the Houston Dynamo’s vaunted forward corps left this week, other members see a new challenge and opportunity ahead of them to build on the successes of 2017 – both as individuals and as a team.
Following the transfer of Erick Torres to Pumas, Mauro Manotas is the lone center forward currently under contract, though Alberth Elis has also played in the position for the Dynamo and Honduras. Head coach Wilmer Cabrera and vice president/general manager Matt Jordan, however, have expressed that they are happy with the current depth of the attacking talent on the roster while they sort out options for the future.
Their comments are surely a vote of confidence for 22-year-old Manotas, coming off of the best season of his career and ready to take the mantle of responsibility into this preseason.
“I feel confident and I am waiting to see how El Profe (Cabrera) wants to use me,” Manotas told reporters after training on Friday. “Obviously, [Torres'] transfer opens a spot on the field and I don’t know how the coaching staff will fill it up, but if I am given that responsibility, I ready for it.
“I feel capable of the task. I have the physical and the mental capabilities to face the challenge. I love challenges and I have been waiting for this opportunity for a while.”
Manotas joined the club in 2015 as a 19-year-old, tallying a goal and an assist in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup but only playing 102 minutes in substitute appearances during the MLS regular season. In 2016, Manotas spent time on loan with RGV FC in the USL, scoring twice in four appearances, and scored three more times in Open Cup play.
After honing his skills for a year and a half as a reserve, Manotas earned his first MLS start in August 2016, and started 10 of the final 12 games of the season for the Dynamo. In those 10 starts, he scored six times – tied for the most on the team for the entire season.
The following offseason brought in more firepower for the front line – Hondurans Elis and Romell Quioto were brought in, and Torres returned from an injury refreshed to play under Cabrera – and Manotas was not a sure-fire starter going into 2017. Cabrera’s rotation of players throughout the team and Manotas’ performances couldn’t keep him off the field, however.
The Colombian played in 33 of the team’s 34 regular season games, starting 24, and scored 10 goals with five assists. He also started three playoff matches and came on as a substitute in one other – in which he scored the deathblow goal in Portland to seal the Dynamo’s advancement to the Western Conference Championship. As good as last season was, he’s not content with topping there.
“Last year we had a great season, not only me but the team as a whole. It was disappointing that we couldn’t finish it by winning the league, but … this season will be even better, not only for me but the whole group.”