Houston Dynamo coach Paulo Nagamura was hugely impressed by defender Ethan Bartlow, who made his MLS debut for the team in a 3-1 win over Inter Miami last week.
Bartlow went up against Gonzalo Higuain and came out on top to help the Dynamo continue their steady start to the campaign.
Nagamura had to call on Bartlow due to an injury to centre-back Daniel Steres, but the youngster turned in a strong display.
“Look, it was an easy decision for me. I watched Ethan with the second team last week,” Nagamura said. “He did really well, so once we found out that we could miss Daniel on the team I think it was an easy decision and again Ethan stepped up big time and had a very, very good performance.”
Bartlow added: “It was an unbelievable feeling. I have so much respect for my teammates for getting me through that. It wasn’t easy for me, there were definitely some shaky moments at least early on. But a dream come true. I kind of had this moment three minutes in where I just kind of looked up in the lights and kind of realized I’m here.”
The San Jose Earthquakes are next up for Houston, and they go into the fixture on the back of coming from 2-0 down to draw with Austin FC, with both goals coming from set-pieces.
“We score from set pieces because we train them. We train them a lot, we take a lot of time on that,” explained defender Francisco Calvo. “I’m not saying that we don’t take time on regular play, but it’s part of the game. Everybody is going to get confidence game by game and we are going to try to score more goals during the game and try to put this team where it needs to be.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Houston Dynamo – Fafa Picault
Fafa Picault scored twice in Houston’s win over Miami on Saturday after Darwin Quintero opened the scoring. Picault has netted 11 of Houston’s 25 goals since the beginning of August 2021.
San Jose Earthquakes – Cade Cowell
Cade Cowell scored the equalizer for the Earthquakes in their draw with Austin on Saturday, the seventh goal of the 18-year-old’s MLS career.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Dynamo have won their last five home matches against San Jose. Houston have had just two longer regular season home winning streaks against a single opponent, winning seven straight at home against D.C. United from 2009 to 2014 and six straight over Montreal from 2013 to 2019.
– After losing 12 of their final 18 games in 2021, the Dynamo have just one defeat in five games to start the 2022 season (W2 D2).
– Houston are looking for their first set of consecutive wins since a three-match streak in August-September 2020.
– All six Earthquakes goals in 2022 have come on set plays as they are the only team without an open play goal this season.
– Prior to Cowell, there were only two goals scored by players under 19 in the Earthquakes’ MLS history, both by Arturo Alvarez in 2003 and 2004.