The Houston Dynamo, on the surface, would appear to be just another not terribly interesting Major League Soccer team for the Vancouver Whitecaps to somehow draw a winnable game against. The Houston Dynamo are just another chunk of Generic MLS Soccer Product, another team with less history than the Puerto Rico Islanders who we're supposed to care about for some indiscernible reason. They play in a not terribly interesting college throwball stadium, they have a bunch of not terribly interesting players, they're pretty mediocre on the field but not mediocre enough that we care. If you lined all their players up next to the Chicago Fire, could you tell which one was which? (Okay, obviously the Dynamo are the team with the big ginger Canadian centre back, but other than that.)
The Houston Dynamo seem like a team you forget about. "Hey, the Whitecaps are playing today." "Really? Who against?" "Um... AC St. Louis? The Ottawa Fury? I can't remember." "I think they wear orange." "The Carolina Railhawks, I guess." But I'm here to tell you not to forget about that. Not to treat them as simply one more meaningless opponent with a slightly dumb name.
There are so many good reasons to hate the Houston Dynamo, you see. I don't just mean their retina-scorching uniforms, or their unpleasant stadium, or even their preposterous mascot (well, I kinda mean the mascot). Actual, substantive reasons. As well as several reasons that aren't so substantive but will at least be vitriolic.
Remember, if the soccer gods liked that team, they wouldn't have put them in Houston. The Dynamo are emblematic of everything wrong with professional soccer in North America. They're ugly, they're unpleasant, and we should all despise them. Until Monday, anyway, when we can go back to confusing them with the Railhawks again.
They stole the San Jose Earthquakes. Yes, I know that the San Jose Earthquakes eventually came back with a lesser roster and a lot less hope. That's not the point. The point is that Houston stole their soccer team. Packed it out under cover of night in search of a sweet, sweet money. Like when the National Football League's Houston Oilers bolted for Tennessee (which, by the way, Houston sports fans still haven't stopped bitching about). Took a team with history and championships and packed it south to Dallas's dumber little brother.
The franchise model is evil. It leads to teams blackmailing taxpayers for perks and new stadiums, it leads to historical roots being torn out in pursuit of bribery. We sports fans are, ultimately, just cheering for laundry, and franchises like the Dynamo even try to take that away from us.
- This Dwayne De Rosario mania is their fault. It was the Houston Dynamo who traded MeRo to Toronto FC in exchange for Julius James and allocation money, or as it's more succinctly known "nothing". You think Toronto would have taken the hint. Nope. Instead they hitched their wagon to the most self-absorbed Canadian soccer player this side of Justin Bieber and the rest of us got to hear about it. Dwayne De Rosario mangled Toronto FC off the field, was overrated on it, and contributed to the disillusionment which has choked what was once Canada's best-supported sports team. That's the Houston Dynamo's fault. They might as well have sent us Celine Dion and Quebec separatism while they were at it.
- Look at that mascot again. Come on. I've got nothing against mascots but I make an exception for Dumbo the Cross-Eyed Fox. Apparently his mother never told him that if you make a face like that it might stay that way.
They cut Pat Onstad. Let me repeat that so you can see it again. They cut Pat Onstad. Onstad had been a starter in Houston since 2006, had been the only redeemable thing about that team apart from Andre Hainault, had backstopped them to two MLS Cups, and they still cut him just because he's old. Dropped him in favour of some idiot named Tally Hall, which sounds like a dorm at a prep school. Yes, Onstad turned 43 in January. But as we all know, Onstad is an ageless cyborg sent back in time from a dystopian future where a lack of quality veteran Canadian goalkeeping caused a sentient machine to take over the world.
That story, at least, has a happy ending. Onstad's now a playing goalkeeping coach with D.C. United, where he's already started three games. Still, Houston can never be forgiven.
- Houston sucks. I had a two-hour stopover in their airport once, so you can take this from an expert.
- Andre Hainault is great. That may not seem like a very good reason to hate the Houston Dynamo. But imagine how awesome Hainault would be if he played somewhere other than Houston?
They're everything wrong with sports today. The Houston Dynamo are an unabashed, delightful corporate franchise, like the villain out of a Victorian novel. They stole the Earthquakes, of course, an act which alone would mark them as soccer lepers in any serious market. To rub salt into the wound, the stolen team immediately rang off two straight MLS championships that should have gone to San Jose. The majority owner is Anschutz Entertainment Group, which proudly boasts that it's the world's largest owner of sports properties (local soccer!). They stole San Jose's team on the pretext of needing a soccer-specific stadium, then dallied in a college throwball stadium for years where they tried to bilk taxpayers to foot as much of the bill as possible (to be fair, the Houston MLS stadium is less of a huge ripoff to the taxpayer than most deals of its kind).
Of course, AEG has tried to involve the community in their team. For example, the franchise's new name was chosen by the fans. Unfortunately, the name they chose was "Houston 1836", after the year of the city's founding. AEG vetoed the fans' choice because of largely manufactured political outrage and gave them a stupid generic North American name with one quarter the local significance. I don't object to AEG wanting to make money off the Dynamo; sports is best when it's profitable. What I object to is the philosophy that fans are lemons to be squeezed until dry and then discarded, as they were in San Jose.
Fuck the Houston Dynamo.