Brooklyn Raines: The HDFC Prodigy
It is not a secret that Houston Dynamo have been unsuccessful in terms of producing young talent. When the greatest homegrown player to come from the program is Memo Rodriguez (now with LA Galaxy), you know there is something wrong. There are many question marks surrounding the lack of talent coming through the pipeline of Houston. With the Bayou City the 3rd largest population in the US, as well as being the most diverse city in the nation, it is hard to believe that the Dynamo cannot develop youngsters. However, all of that changed in early 2022 when the club announced the signing of Brooklyn Raines as a homegrown player, just 16 at the time!
Raines, born in Liberia, was a product of the highly touted Barcelona Academy based in Arizona. Many young American players came through this academy such as Caden Clark and Matthew Hoppe, both of which are USMNT prospects. Brooklyn has appeared for both US-U17 as well as US-19 age groups. One of Pat Onstad's first moves as a GM was acquiring Brooklyn from USL side, El Paso Locomotive.
Per Brooklyn's mother, Susie Raines, "When [Brooklyn] was 11 he wore the jersey of one of his favorite mids, and fellow Liberian, Darlington Nagbe, to a futsal tournament. This week he got to play against him in an MLS preseason game. Huge thanks to Darlington for chatting with him after the game." (Image courtesy of twitter, @RainesSusie).
Upon acquiring Brooklyn, Pat Onstad made it clear that the objective was to develop him. Pat enforced the notion that Raines was part of the future and that the young midfielder would get the necessary playing time to develop. Due to wonky MLS rules (no surprise there) Brooklyn would need to play a certain amount of minutes for Houston Dynamo 2 of MLS Next Pro before he was able to appear for the first team. However, the "wonkiness" doesn't stop there. The annual tournament, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, allows for any player on the roster to play. Therefore, Raines was allowed to make his first team debut on April 19th, 2022 against RGV FC in a 2-1 win. Brooklyn started all three USOC games that Houston took part of in 2022, with their run ending against SKC in a 2-1 loss. Brooklyn was a bright spot in all 3 games and gave fans the first glimpse of what can be expected from this young star in the making. Late into the 2022 season, after playing incredibly with Dyna Dos, Brooklyn made his first regular season appearance for the first team as a substitute in a 2-1 loss against the Sounders, away. That's a pretty tough environment for a regular season debut.
Brooklyn is a versatile player, who can be slotted at the 6, 8, or even on the wing. Perhaps the best part of his game is his ability to press. His effort is relentless and when Brooklyn cuts inside he is able to open his vision to find intricate passes. With the ball at his feet, Raines is remarkably calm. Raines has made 2 starts in the regular season and 1 start in the USOC. Overall, he has appeared 5 times through 8 games. Brooklyn's first start in 2023 was against NYCFC, in a 1-0 win. This broke a cub record with Raines (18 yrs old) officially becoming the youngest player to start a regular season game for the Dynamo. A nifty pass inside the box from Brooklyn in the second half directly resulted in a foul which led to a penalty kick. Amine Bassi converted from the spot which ended up being the game's only goal.
Houston Dynamo played Tampa Bay Rowdies to kick off their 2023 USOC campaign. In this starting lineup was nonother than Brooklyn Raines, who was being utilized as an inverted winger. In the 43rd minute, a long through ball by Sebas Ferreira found a streaking Corey Baird, who made a one touch pass in the middle of the opponent's box to send Brooklyn through on goal. A tidy finish by Raines into the bottom right corner gave Houston a 1-0 lead, and was eventually the game winning goal. The way the team celebrated this huge moment with the youngster is honestly heart warming. This marks the young prodigy's first goal for HDFC. If that wasn't a cool enough story, Brooklyn's family was present in the stands to witness this great milestone. (image courtesy of twitter, @webtilton). It's safe to say this will be a moment Brooklyn will never forget.
It has became evidently clear that Brooklyn is a staple in the first team, being called upon by head coach Ben Olsen over players like Ivan Franco (winger) and Luis Caicedo (midfielder). This is a sight for sore eyes for Houston Dynamo fans as they have been dealing with sub-mediocrity for a decade. With a rising star finally on the squad, fans have a player to look up to for years to come.
As always, this has been Colin from Keeping Tabs, reminding you to keep your tabs, wherever you may be. Thank you for reading.