Houston Dynamo rookie forward Thor Ulfarsson just returned from the his first international camp ahead of Houston's MLS restart. The native Icelander is looking forward to returning to action amid increased playing time just before the break. Is he ready for a breakout second half?
Ulfarsson has been playing soccer since the age of 6. He has always found a way to hit the back of the net. Prior to arriving at Duke in February of 2021, he had spent parts of the previous two years on loan from his home club of Breioablik. During that span from 2019 to 2021, he scored 12 goals in 32 appearances.
As a member of the Blue Devils, he made an immediate impact. By the time his first half season was complete, he had been named the team MVP and was a member of the ACC All-Freshmen Team among other accolades. He played a full sophomore season before signing a Generation Addidas contract. In 25 games at Duke, Ulfarsson scored 19 goals with two assists. He earned the ACC Offensive MVP, the Duke Team MVP, was a semifinalist for the Mac Hermann Trophy and was named to the United Soccer Coaches First Team and All-ACC First Team.
The Houston Dynamo drafted him with the fourth overall pick of the 2022 draft. Dynamo head coach Paulo Nagamura brought the young forward along slowly using him as a sub for his first seven professional appearances. His first start came against RGVFC in the US Open Cup where he played the full 90. Four more substitutions followed before he got his first MLS start against Nashville where he played 40 minutes. He had two consecutive starts leading into the FIFA break and his departure to international camp with Iceland.
"It's a great honor. You know, all through the youth levels I've never been picked," said Ulfarsson about his time with the Iceland national team. "So this was my first selection now for the U-21 and just to be able to wear the jersey and represent my country is an honor that I'll never take for granted."
Iceland is approximately the size of the state of Kentucky and makes for a very close knit group of soccer players.
"It's obviously a small country so we're all very good friends on the team so it's a good time to be in that part of that group," continued Ulfarrson. "We're all really good friends as I said and we have a good laugh and we enjoy our time together a lot. It's just been refreshing. The traveling obviously takes a long time to go back to Iceland. I think it was all worth it."
The rookie scored his first career goal in his second start of the season against the L.A. Galaxy. To date, he has one goal from three shots on frame from a total of seven shots altogether. The one tally leaves him 814 behind his favorite footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. His increased playing time recently and the impending arrival of midfielder Hector Herrera has him excited about the future of the team and himself.
"It's a little crazy to be playing with that player in what, three weeks," emphasized Ulfarsson when asked about Herrera. "From where I've been and from where I've come from it's a huge deal for me. But you know, just learning from that guy and where he's been throughout his career is going to be big for me and I hope he can just help me out really."
The emergence of Ulfarsson gives Houston a potentially solid 1-2 punch with him and Sebastian Ferreria up top. He also gives them another player who can play wing and crash the goal.
His time with the national team, he believes has benefitted him going into the MLS restart with Orlando.
"I think it's just refreshing to go back to Iceland, obviously, and play with other players and play with another coach. It's kind of refreshing and kind of resets the mindset for the season. I think I'm just fresher now going into like, kind of the second part of the season now. I'm ready to see what I can do," concluded Ulfarsson.
Houston is excited to see what he can do beginning on Saturday night in Orlando. Look forward to a big second half as Thor brings the hammer down.