Houston Dynamo forward Romell Quioto has been named the TheCup.us Player of the Round for the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Quioto’s two goals helped the Dynamo erase an early deficit and knock off the defending Open Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, 4-2.
Quioto’s Major League Soccer teammate, Mauro Manotas, who also had two goals in the win over their Western Conference rivals, was named runner-up in the voting. Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union, MLS) was third, edging out Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC, MLS), who finished fourth.
Quioto becomes the first Honduran and the second Dynamo player to win the award. The other Houston player to win the award was Geoff Cameron who scored of goals in a 4-0 win over the Charleston Battery in the 2009 Quarterfinals.
The award is voted on by the staff of TheCup.us and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.
Quioto and the Dynamo are hunting for their first-ever US Open Cup title, having reached the Semifinals twice before, the last time in 2009. The Dynamo will host first-year entry LAFC and Vela on Aug. 8 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The other Semifinal pits the Philadelphia Union at the Chicago Fire.
The Dynamo, below the playoff line currently in the MLS table, are just two wins away from an Open Cup title, thanks to Quioto’s quarterfinal fire and determination.
Houston trailed shockingly 1-0 in the second minute at home against Sporting but Quioto’s well-placed free kick from the top of the penalty arc in the 35th minute tied the game. It was Quioto’s first goal in all competition since May.
Sporting Kansas City had a six-man wall set-up, but Quioto stepped up and placed a curling shot that skimmed over the middle of the leaping wall and tucked safely into the upper lefthand corner of the net. KC goalkeeper Tim Melia, last year’s TheCup.us Player of the Tournament, was guarding the right half of the goal, but barely flinched as the ball rifled the netting.
Quioto’s teammate, defender Adolfo Machado, saw some divine inspiration in his free kick goal, teasing Quioto after the game: “In the name of Jesus, galazo! Golazo, I say!”
Inch. Perfect. pic.twitter.com/QdptTpJeVC
— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) July 19, 2018
In the 66th minute, Houston midfielder Darwin Ceren, given plenty of space by a tiring Sporting KC lineup, played a precise pass from inside his own half to Quioto roaming just outside of the Kansas City 18 yard box. Quioto, slipping behind the SKC back line, chested down the lofting ball which took two bounces and set up nicely for the Honduran to one-time it past Melia with a low shot to the far post. Manotas scored in the 69th and 88th minutes to cap the victory and now has a club record seven career goals in US Open Cup play. Quioto exited in the 73rd minute of the match with Houston comfortably up 3-1 and Sporting Kansas City’s final goal came just before the final whistle at 90+3 after Houston was already coasting to the finish line. “Let’s go to the semifinals!,” said a joyful Quioto on the field after the game.
Quioto’s pace and vision down the left wing was a big reason that Houston out-shot SKC in the quarterfinal match, 24-14, including 12-7 with shots on goal.
“He’s been important,” Houston manager Wilmer Cabrara said. “He’s been giving us important numbers and what we were expecting from him. assists … attacking opportunities and created opportunities for us. And when he has the possibility, he can score and today he was dangerous.”
Coming into the Open Cup quarterfinal, Quioto had just three goals during the MLS season but is second in the league with 11 assists. The Honduran international is a big part of the Dynamo’s high-flying offense which averaging nearly two goals a game.
Quioto is a player that comfortably score with his right-foot, like he did on the free kick against Sporting Kansas City, or send crosses in with his left-foot, targeting fellow Honduran Aberth Elis (9 goals) flashing in from the right wing or Manotas (10 goals) in the middle.
The powerfully-built 6-foot-1 Quioto will turn 27 the day after the semifinal against LAFC. He grew up on the Caribbean coast in tiny Rio Esteban, about 135 miles from the capital city of Tegucigalpa and home to just over 1,200 people.
Nearby Balfate was a one-time key port for shipping bananas to the United States but the area saw its rail lines dismantled in the 1950s and the pier eventually was demolished. When a main highway was built between La Ceiba and Trujilio the area was largely by-passed with most towns connected to the larger world by dirt or gravel roads.
Just two days before the win over Sporting Kansas City, Quioto tweeted about his hometown: “We #RioEsteban come from a place where life is difficult and being able to get ahead costs but God always gave us strength to be able to fight for our dreams.”
Me llena de mucho orgullo poder ver más jóvenes en la liga nacional representando nuestro querido pueblo #RioEsteban venimos de un lugar donde la vida es difícil y poder salir adelante cuesta pero Dios siempre nos dio fuerza para poder luchar por nuestros sueños
— Romell Quioto (@RomellSamir) July 16, 2018
Quioto, nicknamed El Romantico by his teammates because of his goal celebrations of forming a heart with hands and his love of romantic music, signed with the Dynamo on December 23, 2016.
He burst onto the scene in Houston, scoring in his first three MLS appearances last season. It was a long season for Quioto as his Honduran national team battled for a spot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
He separated a shoulder in World Cup qualifying last spring and later had an ankle injury that kept him off the field. He finished 2017 with seven goals and three assists in 22 appearances (14 starts).
Honduras fell to Australia last November in a playoff for one of the final spots in the tournament and the long home-and-away series in the middle of the MLS playoffs, limited Quioto in Houston’s run to the Western Conference semifinals.
“He knows that we are expecting more from him this season. Because last season he had a very good start in a few games but then he got injured and then he was inconsistent,” Cabrera said.
Quioto already has 14 starts this season and would have had more but he was limited to coming off the bench at the start of the 2018 MLS season after a viral infection in training camp kept him off the field.
“He wasn’t at his best because he had an injury and then he got sick, but we had to wait with him. But he has recovered; after he recovered he was ready, practicing hard, when he was ready we played him and now he’s been playing very well and we’re happy for him,” said Cabrera after Quioto was ready to climb back into the starting 11.
It was clear from Quioto’s body language early in the season that he was chomping at the bit to get off the substitution bench.
“Yeah, I feel very happy now. The beginning of the season was tough because I wasn’t starting and I was not fully recovered. Now I am healthy and happy that I am back with the team and having good performances,” Quioto said.
His big goals in the US Open Cup Quarterfinals should come as no surprise to Honduran fans as it was Quioto’s game-winning goal against Mexico last fall in a 3-2 win that put Honduras into the fourth and final playoff spot, knocking the United States out of its bid to reach Russia.
Quioto also has scored in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2016-17 and in the 2016 Rio Olympics as an over-age player for Honduras.
The chemistry between Elis and Quioto on the opposite wings is fun to watch. The duo played for two years together at Olimpia in Honduras and both have a full-tilt attitude.
While at Olimpia, Quioto hammered home 38 goals in 96 league appearances, gaining the attention of the Houston Dynamo scouts and a reunion with Elis.
“Since we started playing together we’ve had chemistry,” Elis said. “He’s a player that always tries to help the forwards. And he has a great first touch and we’re both fast so we understand one another.”
2018 TheCup.us Player of the Round winners
Preliminary Round: Rasmus Hansen (Brooklyn Italians, NPSL)
First Round: Chuka Aruh (Inter Nashville FC, NPSL)
Second Round: Christian Okeke (NTX Rayados, USASA)
Third Round: Allisson Faramilio (FC Golden State Force, PDL)
Fourth Round: Brian Ownby (Louisville City FC, USL)
Fifth Round: Daniel Salloi (Sporting Kansas City, MLS)
Quarterfinals: Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo, MLS)