The Houston Dynamo kick off their 13th season in Major League Soccer against second-year club Atlanta United FC when the two face off on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium (2:30 p.m., TICKETS). The opening day match will be televised nationally on Univision.
The Dynamo are coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2017 – one step away from playing for the ultimate prize in MLS. Head coach Wilmer Cabrera’s men will be looking to continue their good labor on the field with continuity on their side on 2018.
“Last year we didn’t know each other,” said Cabrera. “This year we all know each other a lot more and that helps to incorporate new things to move on. The players that have arrived have been very receptive and since there’s not too many of them, it’s easier for them to adapt.”
Both Houston and Atlanta were among the most attacking offenses all season in 2017, with the Dynamo finishing 6th in the league with 57 goals scored. Atlanta United finished 2nd, scoring 70 goals in their first MLS season.
The Dynamo’s attack will be led by young goalscorers Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto, who together scored almost half of the team’s total goals last year. Atlanta also features players with flair in Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and newly-acquired seven-year MLS veteran Darlington Nagbe, which should make for an entertaining opening day match.
“It’s a very talented team,” said defender Philippe Senderos. “I find that it will be a very interesting game, maybe two different styles, but we have improved a lot with the ball and we would like to have the control of the game because we are at home; and if we can do that and win the ball at the end then we will have a good chance.”
While there will be plenty of names on the field, there are two in particular that will be missed. Dynamo midfielder Tomás Martínez is ineligible for this match as he will serve a red card suspension that carries over from the playoff match against Seattle Sounders in November. For Atlanta, 18-year-old newcomer Ezequiel Barco was sidelined earlier this week with a right quad strain.
Houston and Atlanta have only met once in MLS, a 4-1 Dynamo loss last year at Bobby Dodd Stadium, making Saturday the first meeting between the two at BBVA Compass Stadium. Cabrera expressed his respect for the Five Stripes and cited it as a great first test to the Dynamo’s 2018 regular season marathon.
“We want the competition, the best possible,” said Cabrera. “To start with a team like Atlanta United that has a great level and favoritism within the MLS for its characteristics, for the players they can bring, that they can acquire, for their coaching staff. This is what makes this game important for us and hopefully we can approach it the same way, with a lot of character and respect but at the same time understanding that in the field of play we are all equal.”