The Next Big Thing
Houston’s new soccer team launches a new rivalry
Professional soccer is back in the Bayou City with the arrival of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. Last December, MLS announced the league’s newest franchise after moving the San Jose team to Houston.
The name honors the area’s ties to the energy industry and is one also shared by several European teams. Dynamo plays their home games at the 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium on the University of Houston campus.
On April 2, they kicked off in a big way with a 5-2 win over Colorado in front of more than 25,000 fans. Forward Brian Ching, later named to the 2006 U.S. World Cup team, scored four goals and Dwayne De Rosario, runner-up for the 2005 MLS MVP award, had four assists.
But the game circled on everyone’s calendar was the May 6 clash with FC Dallas. Houston built an early 3-0 edge and held on for a 4-3 win, despite FCD mounting a serious second-half comeback.
Other than bragging rights, they are playing for “El Capitan,” an 18th century Mountain Howitzer replica cannon that recognizes the winner as Texas’ best MLS team.
In a rematch just one week later at Frisco’s Pizza Hut Park, FCD led 1-0 before a late goal forced them to settle for a 1-1 tie. After two games in the series, Houston has four points to FC Dallas’ one. Teams get three points for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss.
They meet again on Aug. 12 in Houston and close out the series Sept. 2 in Frisco. The club with the most points after four games gets the cannon for one year and with it, bragging rights over their rivals.
There isn’t much bad blood between them yet, but Dynamo’s coaches and players see that changing. “I know the fans don’t like each other,” says Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear, 2005 MLS Coach of the Year while at San Jose. “I think as both teams play more that the rivalry will grow. But for now, the media coverage has been good, and the fan forums have also. All this just adds to it.”
Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis, who played with Dallas in 2003 and 2004, agrees. “It seems like the Houston fans can’t stand the Dallas fans and vice versa,” he says. “But as a player, you always want your club to be the best in your state.”
Being former Dallas players adds something to the rivalry for Houston players Davis and teammate Ronald Cerritos. “When you play against a former club, obviously there’s always that competitive edge,” says Cerritos, who was with Dallas in 2002 and 2003.
Davis agrees. “Whenever you’re playing a team you used to play for, you want to go out there and have your best game,” he says. “Playing against your friends, you want to go out there, compete and win.”
Dynamo midfielder Brian Mullan likes what the rivalry’s future might hold. “I believe it’s still in its infancy, but it’s been good so far,” Mullan says. “There has been lots of hype about it; and hopefully over the next few years, it will continue to grow. With the quality of the two teams involved, I am sure it will take off.”
Five current members of Houston’s roster were MLS All-Stars while in San Jose: defender Wade Barrett, Cerritos, Ching, Davis and 2005 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Pat Onstad. Also, eight current Dynamo players played on at least one of San Jose’s MLS Cup championship teams from 2001 or 2003.
Thirteen games into the season, Houston sits in second place in the MLS Western Conference, only five points behind their in-state rivals.