For a professional sports franchise in just their sixth season of existence, Houston Dynamo have already left an indelible mark on Major League Soccer.
Unlike Vancouver Whitecaps FC and other MLS expansion teams, the Dynamo could not have asked for a better start to their life as a top-level professional soccer club when they started playing in 'Space City' in 2006. The birth of the Dynamo came as a result of a successful MLS side moving from the Bay Area of Northern California to the largest city in the state of Texas.
The foundation for Houston's initial success in MLS came from the well-established squad that was put together at the turn of the Millennium in San Jose. As one of the league's original clubs, San Jose Clash made little impact in their first four seasons. However, when they re-named themselves 'Earthquakes' for the 2000 season, San Jose's new identity brought about a turn in fortune, as they won MLS Cup titles in 2001 and 2003. Though they claimed the MLS Supporters' Shield as regular season champions in 2005, the first era of the MLS Earthquakes came to an end when club owners Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) moved the franchise to Houston in December 2005 following their failed efforts to secure a soccer-specific stadium for the club in San Jose.
While Bay Area soccer fans had to wait until 2008 for the return of the Earthquakes, the Dynamo were created as an expansion franchise for the 2006 season, with San Jose's players and staff relocating to Houston. Led by current head coach Dominic Kinnear, Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario, and Vancouver native Pat Onstad, the Dynamo capped Houston's inaugural season by claiming the 2006 MLS Cup title following a penalty shootout win over New England Revolution. History was repeated the following year, as De Rosario scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over New England in the 2007 MLS Cup final.
2008 saw the Dynamo reach the semifinals in the last edition of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and finish top of the MLS Western Conference standings. Later that year, they also participated in the inaugural edition of the newly-formed CONCACAF Champions League (2008-09), where they reached the quarterfinals. Houston's 2009 campaign saw them reach the Western Conference final before losing to LA Galaxy and the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup before falling to eventual winners Seattle Sounders FC. The 2010 season was less than stellar for the Dynamo, as key departures and injuries resulted in Houston missing the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history.
During their brief history, the Dynamo have had a handful of Canadians in their squad. Other than De Rosario and Onstad, former Canadian international defender Adrian Serioux played two seasons with the Texas outfit, while former Whitecaps FC midfielder Kevin Harmse was briefly with the Dynamo before the start of the 2010 campaign. As for current Canadian representation, former Montreal Impact centre back Andre Hainault has become a virtual ever-present in the Houston backline.
The Dynamo's early establishment in Houston has led to the current building of their own soccer-specific stadium. Set to open for the start of next season, the 22,000-seat 'Dynamo Stadium' will be the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS to be located in a city's downtown district. This will see a memorable era come to an end at the end of this year, as the Dynamo will bid farewell to Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston.
This Saturday afternoon on Bell Pitch at Empire Field, Whitecaps FC host Houston Dynamo in MLS at 4 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). 'Caps fans can also watch Saturday's game live on TSN 2 and Bell mobile devices, or listen in live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6 p.m. PT.