Monday, November 07, 2011

Houston Dynamo To MLS Cup 2011 Title Game!

It's been a great year so far for football at the collegiate and professional  levels in the Houston area, and now our football team that plays with a round ball is joining in on the fun.  

The Houston Dynamo knocked off Sporting Kansas City 2-0 yesterday in the MLS Eastern Conference Finals to avenge an earlier 3-0 butt kicking on September 10 and send them to their third trip to the MLS Cup title game on November 20. 

The Houston Dynamo is our Major League Soccer team we received here in 2005 as a result of the San Jose Earthquakes players and coach Dominic Kinnear being transferred here as a result of the inability of their AEG owners to get a soccer specific stadium built in the San Jose area.   Since Houston was about to get an MLS expansion franchise, we ended up with a Baltimore Ravens type situation in which we got the players to stock our new franchise while the history, colors, nickname and records of the Earthquakes stayed in San Jose until the franchise was revived by MLS in 2008.

The Dynamo have played their games at Robertson Stadium on the University of Houston campus since their arrival in town but broke ground earlier this year on a 22,000 seat soccer-specific downtown stadium that is currently under construction on the opposite side of the elevated Eastex Freeway from Minute Maid Park. 

The stadium is scheduled to open for business in May 2012 and will also be the home for Texas Southern University football games and outdoor concerts. 

The team found itself ensnared in a public relations controversy during the startup phase.  An online survey was conducted that polled fans to choose the name of the new MLS team from Apollos, Bulls, Eagles, Gatos, Lonestars, Stallions, Toros, Americans, Buffaloes, Generals, Houston 1836, Mustangs and Stars.  On January 25, 2006 the announcement was made that Houston 1836 would be selected as the name and the logic behind it was that it reflected the year Houston was founded as a city. 

However, 1836 is also the year that Texas won independence from Mexico and that is still a sore spot issue south of the border.  The soccer fans here who are predominately of Mexican heritage and the targeted market for the team loudly protested the chosen nickname for the new MLS franchise and it was changed to the Dynamo.

Despite that stumbling PR start, the newbies on the professional sports scene in town quickly established themselves as winners not only at the box office but on the pitch.  The Dynamo won back to back MLS titles in 2006 and 2007 and lost in the Western Conference finals in 2008 and 2009.  On the FIFA international club level competition stage they have made it to the semifinals of the CONCAFAF Champions League in 2007-2008 and were eliminated in the group stage in 2009.

But after missing the playoffs in 2010 General Manager and head coach Dominic Kinnear made some painful changes and rebuilt the team.  For much of the season it looked like the Dynamo were going to miss out on the MLS playoffs again but after that 3-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City the team caught fire.

The Dynamo has been on a nine game unbeaten streak, won five consecutive games and finished high enough in the Eastern Conference standings to earn a bye into the semis.  They knocked out the Philadelphia Union in the home and home Eastern Conference semis two leg playoff before taking out Sporting KC.   

But they will be underdogs going into the MLS Cup championship game against the LA Galaxy, the team that had the best record in MLS this year.  In addition to playing in the Galaxy's home stadium in Carson, CA they will be facing David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the gang without their MLS MVP candidate Brad Davis, who suffered a right quad injury in the first half of yesterday's Eastern Conference championship match.

After seeing what the Dynamo has accomplished against the odds this season, I wouldn't count out the possibility that when the new stadium opens next May, the Dynamo might be unfurling another championship banner as part of the opening ceremonies for it. 

Congrats Dynamo and bring that ML:S Cup back to H-town.   It would sure be nice to have another championship rally at the steps of City Hall. 

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