Houston Dynamo: 2021 building starts with Zarek Valentin

Houston Dynamo have a lot of work to do this offseason but it all starts with Zarek Valentin

In past conversations with supporters, frustration remains high over the lack of a powerful driver on the Houston Dynamo offense. No word has come from the team front office that anyone’s looking for him yet.

For now, management and head coach Tab Ramos continue to work with what they know. And what they know is that they’ve fallen to the fewest points in the Western Division with 21 for this season. That’s also the fewest points in all MLS except for FC Cincinnati.

They know that every regardless of any formation they’ve focused on, they can’t win consistently. They’ve tried everything from 4-3-3 to 4-5-1 and they produced one win and two draws in their last eight games of the year.

But so far, their best guidance doesn’t yet scream for a massive rebuild. They’ve started tooling next year’s crew for the pitch with the most consistent contributors they know.

First on this list: defender Zarek Valentin. He agreed to a contract extension through 2022 with an option for 2023. General manager Matt Jordan said the team was happy Valentin didn’t try free agency.

Expansion side Nashville SC picked Valentin up from Portland in their 2019 draft, then traded immediately traded him to Houston. He played 19 games for the Dynamo this season. Scouting reports have him below superstar status. But he’s well above-average at both left- and right-back. Houston wants him to specialize on the right.

The same scouting reports say he’s weak in tackling. But his strengths at right-back lie in his holding onto the ball and passing. That accounts for Valentin’s career-high three assists this year. That includes one assist each in Houston’s season-opening draw against LA Galaxy and their first win against Sporting Kansas City.

He played all 90 minutes in all but one game. His highest-rated performance was the final game, a 2-1 loss to Colorado Rapids. Although a season-ending loss, the game sealed the case whether Houston Dynamo could use Zarek Valentin’s performance to begin building a winning team for next season.

Playing against scouting reports, he successfully got in two tackles in this game. He won two aerials and made 84% of his passing attempts successfully. He competently played his position at defense. He also joined his teammates in creating goal-scoring opportunities. But he’s not meant to become a scorer. So the overall effort failed.

So Houston Dynamo will count on Zarek Valentin to remain solid at right-back, work his way to the midfield getting off some accurate passes in every game. One new star striker to snag those passes and score would be in order. That will get the supporters back in the stands and on the team’s side.