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Young Argentine joins defending champ
by Ridge Mahoney, February 28th, 2008 6:45AM

TAGS:  mls


[MLS] While several MLS rivals scramble to sign pricey foreign strikers, the defending champion Houston Dynamo - whose needs in that position may be more pressing - are sticking to a low-key approach. Franco Caraccio, 21, has experience with Argentina's under-20 team but has played only three professional seasons for Arsenal de Sarandi.

Yet Caraccio will be expected to fill at least some of the void left by the departures of Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya to Austrian clubs. They combined for 13 goals last season.

In one aspect, at least, Caraccio has qualities similar to that of Ngwenya, who sparked the Dynamo's attack last season after arriving in a trade. His penetrating runs into the channels, those alleys of space between the flanks and the middle, gave Houston a valuable weapon to complement the size of Jaqua and Brian Ching.

"He has good size, good speed, and has international experience in playing in Copa Libertadores, which is always a plus," said Houston coach Dominic Kinnear. "We've seen him play, and know that he is explosive. He likes to run the channels, and play up front on his own."

Team president Oliver Luck said, "You can't always get the most experienced players but these kinds of good, young, players are out there, and more and more of them are coming to our league."

Jaqua has already scored two goals in Austria for ACR Altach, but Ngwenya hasn't done so well for SK Austria Kärnten and could be headed back to MLS in the summer if his fortunes don't improve. His MLS rights are retained by Houston.

Caraccio (5-foot-9, 168 pounds) is a native of Buenos Aires and played only occasionally for Arsenal, which won the Copa Sudamericana last fall by beating Club America on the away goals rule (4-4). Yet Kinnear is expecting some production from his newest player sooner rather than later.

"He definitely has to come in and make an impact from the get-go," said Kinnear. "He has to fit in with the group and show us that he is going to be an important piece of our team."

Houston plays three MLS foes next week (Chivas USA, Toronto, DC United) at the Texas Pro Soccer Festival in San Antonio, and opens CONCACAF Champions Cup play against CSD Municipal of Guatemala on March 12.

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