On Tuesday, the Houston Dynamo signed the second player from their youth academy. Francisco Navas Cobo was on hand with his family to sign his first professional soccer contract. The young 18-year-old midfielder was shy and almost speechless.
"It's a dream come true," he managed to say.
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear was impressed with Navas Cobo when he first saw him. Kinnear invited him to training camp earlier this year to practice with the senior team, and even gave him playing time against their collegiate opponents. He then played Navas Cobo against MLS opposition in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Challenge.
Those games not only convinced Kinnear that he was ready for MLS, but they also caught the eye of Thomas Rongen, the US Men's U-20 head coach. Navas Cobo will be joining the U-20 team later this month for a tournament in Dallas. Kinnear had a brief conversation with Navas Cobo before he signed the contract.
"The message to him was now the hard work really begins, because it's easy to impress but its even harder to stay," Kinnear says.
The Dynamo Youth Academy was started three years ago with the sole purpose of finding and developing young talent in the South Texas region to play for the Dynamo. Last season, the Dynamo signed their first academy player, goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Navas Cobo is the second Houstonian to come out of the academy ranks and join the big boys.
For Director of Youth Development James Clarkson, Navas Cobo's signing gives hope to many young Houstonians who one day hope to wear the orange jersey.
"Any kid in Houston that has any aspirations or dreams of becoming a professional soccer player, they need to be playing for the Houston Dynamo," Clarkson says. "This is the only organization in town that can provide the clear path to the pros, and anyone that is being told any different is being told a lie. This just justifies the importance of the youth program."
In other news, Dynamo forward Luis Ángel Landin -- who missed some time with the team due to tendonitis on his left knee -- was back in action this past weekend in the team's 1-1 draw with the Austin Aztecs. Landin was a second-half sub, and created a couple of decent chances.
The Mexican striker feels that he is slowly regaining his form. "Little by little, the bumps and bruises are going away and I'm feeling better," he says. "I'm glad I was able to get a couple of minutes today to play with my teammates."
With the season opener at FC Dallas fast approaching, Landin knows he has to work hard to be ready: "I've got two to three weeks to work hard and be 100 percent."