Why Memo Rodriguez kept popping up in the right spot against Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Memo Rodriguez’s first career multi-goal game in MLS wasn’t the most eye-popping performance you’ll ever see.

The 23-year-old winger took a total of two touches on his two goals, slamming in low crosses from fellow forward Alberth Elis. But showing up is half the battle, and Rodriguez knows exactly where he’s supposed to be when he sees the ball moving on the opposite side after the last few seasons of working under head coach Wilmer Cabrera, both with the Dynamo and USL affiliate RGV FC.

“Wilmer has told all of the guys … we have to crash the back post if we want to score,” Rodriguez said. “We have to get inside the box whenever the ball is played out wide so we have a chance to score.”

That’s not all there is to Rodriguez’s game – just witness his Goal of the Week stunner just a week prior against Montreal – but the pair of goals highlighted exactly what you want to see from the wide forwards in Cabrera’s 4-3-3.

“We have good forwards to play wide or attack wide,” Cabrera said. “From the left, you need to understand that the right winger needs to get inside the box, so he can score goals. From the opposite side, you attack from the right side, you need to be sure that the winger gets into the box, so we have more opportunities to score. That is their responsibility.”

Rodriguez came up through the Dynamo Academy as a central midfielder, but has been deployed primarily on the wings at the pro level and has clearly caught on to Cabrera’s directives in those positions. You have to have quick recognition to get into the box if you want to score goals, especially with a speedster like Elis on the opposite side.

“With his speed, I have to be a little bit ahead of the game,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously I have to crash that back post before he gets to the line because he is faster than me. I have to read when he gets the ball and I have to see when he puts his head down and take on the defender so I can crash the back post.”

The wide areas of the field are so important to the way the Dynamo play, with Elis, Rodriguez, Romell Quioto and Marlon Hairston as threats in those areas and Mauro Manotas there to clean up in front of goal. Of the team’s six goals in MLS so far, four have come from low crosses into the box, and the Dynamo scored another in the same manner against CD Guastatoya in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League for good measure.

The typical benefactor of these crosses would be Manotas, but an extra target is always welcome. Plus, if Manotas drops off in possession, someone's got to work to fill his spot when Elis gets a head of steam on the flank: