(Update: the Dynamo lost to the LA Galaxy, 3-1, in the 2012 MLS Cup Final.)
The Texans-Titans game is not ‘til Sunday. That Alabama- Georgia SEC championship game is just going to make you wish the Aggies had another shot at LSU (or the Longhorns had a shot at all). So why not turn your Saturday sports-watching attention to the most successful franchise in Texas this side of the San Antonio Spurs?
That would be Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, which will face the L.A. Galaxy in the MLS Cup Final at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s a familiar spot for Houston’s soccer club, both because the Dynamo lost to the Galaxy in last year’s final, and because Houston won back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007, the first two seasons that the team existed. Manager Dominic Kinnear has been in charge that entire time, and this season, the Dynamo’s long tenancy at the University of Houston’s Robertson Stadium came to an end with the completion of the soccer-only BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston.
On behalf of non-soccer fans (and non Houstonians), we reached out to a few experts with some basic questions about the Dynamo, the sport, and the MLS Cup.
1. The Dynamo are back in the MLS Cup Final for the second straight year despite being the Eastern team with the worst record. Is there something about this franchise that makes it especially good at the postseason?
The short answer is Dominic Kinnear. Tactically he gets it right every time.
- Michael Bertin, former Austinite and freelance writer (Deadspin, Slate, ESPN).
Two words: Dominic Kinnear. The man knows how to build a team given the resources available, and knows how to approach the long season so that the players are in peak form when the playoffs arrive. An MLS season really is two separate seasons–regular season and playoffs.
- Eric Carl Nordstrom, Dynamo fan
The Dynamo seem to take it to another level in the playoffs and against top teams. They had winning records against the two top seeds, but they struggled and dropped points against the worst. When it matters, they step it up, which is why they dominated Eastern Conference top seed Sporting Kansas City all season and in the playoffs.
- Jose de Jesus Ortiz, Houston Chronicle soccer writer
It all comes down to Dominic Kinnear. At this point he is the leading candidate to become the next coach of the US national soccer team after the World Cup in 2014.
- Dave Brett Wasser, Austin-based historian and soccer videotape collector
It was an experienced group of guys the first couple of years that set the tone. When you have good leadership from the beginning, it carries over to the following teams. It starts with the coaching staff and transcends through the players, from the veterans down to the rookies.
- Bobby Boswell, Dynamo defender
2. Has there been a noticeable change in the city’s interest in the team now that they’re finally out of Robertson and downtown at their own stadium?
I haven’t been to a game at the new stadium but it has to have helped. Robertson was a dump. And no professional soccer team should have to play on a field with football markings.
- Michael Bertin
I think it definitely gave the franchise some credibility. It piqued the interest of a lot of Houstonians that had never been to a match before. It’s a very unique and visually striking stadium, unlike any one we have here, so I think that also heightened the interest in attending matches. Word of mouth spread about how great our team is and how fun attending matches is, which helped ticket sales. The Dynamo are still unbeaten at home.
- Adriana Perez, Dynamo fan.
Sure there has. Whenever there is a new stadium there is going to be a surge in interest for the team. And this stadium was built largely with private funds. It’s a sign of how far soccer has come in this country that investors in Houston and plenty of other cities are putting that much money into the sport.
- Dave Brett Wasser
The arrival of BBVA Compass Stadium has brought on a new, higher level of excitement and awareness about our brand and organization in the city of Houston. This is reflected in all aspects of our organization, but most notably on our higher attendance numbers, which saw an increase of almost 20% when compared to 2011 (21,015 average attendance per MLS game, good for 4th place among 19 MLS clubs). This is the second-highest average attendance in Houston. The Texans have the #1 spot.
- Lester Gretsch, Dynamo Senior Director of Communications and Broadcasting
3. Conversely, while Mayor Parker was once again encouraging the city to wear their orange Friday, is it difficult for this sport in this city to have its championship right in the heart of NFL season (especially this particular Texans season)? Or is it just an alternate sports universe?
It’s an alternate sports universe, but the Texans are king. There’s no shame in that because the Texans are kings compared to the Astros and Rockets too.
- Jose de Jesus Ortiz
I actually don’t think it is–not for the hardcore fans anyway. For me, once I got the soccer bug, my interest in watching American Football on TV waned precipitously. No commercials, no television timeouts, just 45 minutes-plus, halftime, and 45 minutes-plus. Imagine that–I’m a guy who grew up in Texas, played football, and was taught to hate soccer–now the NFL is more of the afterthought to me. Don’t get me wrong–I’m excited for the Texans. I’ve suffered with them since I moved to Houston ten years ago, but I don’t ever have trouble concentrating because they’re playing “on the weekend.” Likewise, it’s much easier and more affordable to attend a Dynamo game than a Texans game. I’ve been to one Texans game in the last two years. I’ve been to almost all of the Dynamo home games since 2008.
- Eric Nordstrom
It’s definitely challenging. Curiously enough, though, our attendance numbers during the fall (i.e., Texans’ season) have always been strong. We know