The inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro offers a proving ground for the stars of tomorrow. A unique mix of amateur, academy, and professional talents features players with a vast array of backgrounds and interesting stories to highlight as they combine to make their respective cases move farther along in the soccer world.
Look no further than Houston Dynamo 2 striker Roberto “Beto” Avila as the embodiment of the spirit of the league. Through five weeks, the native Texan already has a hat trick to his name and is tied for the lead in the golden boot race with five goals at the time of this writing.
Making it count
Avila is enjoying a breakout season as a professional, and his journey back to Houston is an inspiring one. After playing around the youth and pre-academy leagues in Texas, the Dynamo academy is where it all began for the 21-year-old.
“It started getting serious when I joined Houston Dynamo, which was the 2017-2018 year,” Avila told MLS NEXT Pro. “I have always loved soccer, and I’ve always wanted to play pro since I was like five (years old).
“I actually had a baby in 2018, right now he’s four. So, that year was probably my toughest year because I was here in Houston with the academy and obviously trying to get some minutes and trying to put my name out there for other teams and stuff like that. But it didn’t end up working out that year.”
As an 18-year-old father, Avila’s passion for the sport raged on. He departed Houston and returned to the Lone Star Academy, where he played as a youth and became a professional with the now-defunct Austin Bold FC in the United Soccer League in the years between.
“I stayed there for the next three years which was honestly really tough. Because my first year, I wasn’t really getting paid. I was mostly on trial phase, but I guess the coaches still liked me so they kept me around,” Avila said. “But it was hard for me because I just had a baby, I had my girlfriend, and I had to take care of both of them. So, it wasn’t just feeding myself, I had to work to feed two more people.”
With the support and some help from his family, Avila made it work while picking up side jobs that made for 15-hour days between training, long commutes, and working at Avila Creative Soccer (no relation), where he was training youth players.
The past few years of grinding have set the stage for Avila to make the most of his next opportunity. Which has happened so far in 2022. Avila was in talks to join other teams, but a recommendation and some familiarity with the Dynamo’s setup brought him back to Houston, and the agreement has paid dividends for both sides rather quickly.
Avila’s early-season performance with Dynamo Dos in MLS NEXT Pro rewarded him the first-team call-up on a short-term loan. He made his Houston Dynamo debut on April 19 in U.S. Open Cup play and delivered a stylish game-winning assist, marking a memorable debut.
His Dynamo Dos are rolling through the first five games of the MLS NEXT Pro season and have gotten out to an early lead in the Western Conference, emerging as the MLS NEXT Pro ranks class. Of the 12 goals Houston Dynamo 2 has netted so far, Avila’s contributions lead the team, and he stands out as a player to watch.
As for what’s ahead for Dynamo Dos, Avila does not intend to be complacent with the early season success.
“We expect to keep the same mentality, whether win, lose, or tie. Just play the next game like it’s a final and grind it out.”
Avila and company put their unbeaten record on the line against the Tacoma Defiance on the road on Sunday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, WA.