HOUSTON – Atlanta United had a full season's worth of tape to watch when studying how to stop the Houston Dynamo's Alberth Elis. And yet they never could cope with "La Pantera" in both teams' opener on Saturday afternoon.
Elis time and time again torched the Atlanta's backline as he led the Orange to a 4-0 thrashing of the Five Stripes that was one of the most surprising results of the weekend.
Of Houston’s four goals, Elis directly contributed to two of them, setting up Andrew Wenger's opener and then playing the pass that created Mauro Manotas' strike to make it 3-0. That only started to show his dominance in a match where he led Houston with six shots, including three on target.
“It’s really simple. Elis is very good and very fast. And when he gets to the endline just find yourself in space,” Wenger said. “He’s done the rest...he’s the guy that made it happen...and we’re excited to see what he can do.”
Elis, whose soft-spoken nature in interviews doesn't suggest his dynamism on the field, said he feels more confident in his second year in the league and praises the confidence coach Wilmer Cabrera has in him.
And it wasn't lost on him that he had a stellar performance against a much-touted Atlanta squad.
“I hope to always play at the highest level. I push myself to be my best self,” the Honduran international said. “That is why the team made a significant investment in me and I am aware of that. That is why I want to give everything I have every time I touch the field.”
More performances like Saturday's will place him squarely in the awards conversation at the end of the season. Elis doesn’t want to hear that. He said what’s important right now is winning and amassing points at home and on the road. Defenders around the league will be almost certainly be paying closer attention to him as the season goes on.
“He is a very good player. He is probably one of the best wingers in this league and too many times we were isolated one on one with too much space," said Atlanta center back Michael Parkhurst. "When we were isolated, we weren’t able to make the play. We need to do a better job of denying their better players the ball and like we did in the second half – get more guys around and help each other out a little more. We didn’t do that enough in the first half.”