Although we are only three-and-a-half weeks away from opening day, we are also just four weeks away from the Dynamo's first CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match against Mexican club Santos Laguna (March 5, 7 pm, BBVA Compass Stadium).
Houston will host Santos in the first leg of their home-and-home series, with the winner advancing to the semifinals to face the winner of Seattle Sounders / Tigres UANL. That match will be broadcast nationally on FOX Soccer and can be heard locally on 1560 AM (English) and 850 AM (Spanish).
To get you in the mood for Champions League soccer, each week, we'll provide you an update on how Santos is performing in Liga MX.
Despite transfering Argentinian midfielder Daniel Ludueña and Ecuadoran midfielder Christian Suárez to Pachuca in the offseason, Los Guerreros have had a strong start to the 2013 Clausura campaign. Santos is currently 2-1-2 (8 points) through their first five games and sit in sixth place in Liga MX.
Mexican national team striker Oribe Peralta leads the club with four goals and former Mexican national team goakeeper Oswaldo Sanchez has three shutouts in the first five matches.
Last week, Santos played Pumas to a scoreless draw at Estadio Olimpico Universitaro in Mexico City. The match included a header off the post by U.S. men's national team forward Herculez Gomez and s penalty kick save by Sanchez.
This is the best 0-0 game I've seen in a while. Penalty saved, two goal line clearances, and several other good shots and saves. #LigaMX
— Ordinary Orange Fan (@OrangeFanBlog) February 3, 2013
Santos returns to action this weekend when they host Pumas on Sunday at 4 p.m. CT
HIGHLIGHTS: SANTOS VS. PUMAS
The Houston Dynamo and Mega TV (KTBU) announced a partnership today to make the station the Dynamo's official Spanish-language TV partner for the 2013 season. The deal gives the Dynamo one of the most comprehensive broadcasting platforms across MLS.
With Gow Media (1560 AM and 97.5 FM) on board for English radio, Liberman (850 AM) on board for Spanish radio and CSN Houston and KPRC Local 2 on board for English TV, there are now numerous avenues for Dynamo fans to follow their favorite team throughout the season.
So who is Mega TV? We're glad you asked!
- KTBU began broadcasting on July 15, 1998 and was originally owned by Humanity Interested Media
- After a series of ownership changes, it was purchased by Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc., the largest publicly traded Hispanic-controlled media company in the United States, in May 2011
- Mega TV currently reaches more than 5 million households with over-the-air, cable and satellite distribution on an HD signal
- Mega TV has full distrubution in the Houston DMA.
- Mega TV has a daily news show called Portada that airs every night from 10-11. The show will include news/highlights about the Dynamo, with new episodes airing every Tuesday and Thursday.
It's no surprise that one of the most successful franchises in Major League Soccer, has also had success putting players on their respective national teams. Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden were all staples of the U.S. men's national team as it advanced through the previous World Cup qualifying tournament and into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
This year is no different. On Wednesday, the final round of CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying tournament kicks off and four Dynamo players will represent three teams. Brad Davis was named to the U.S. roster, Boniek Garcia will suit up for Honduras and Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson will head to Estadio Azteca for Jamaica's match against Mexico.
If Davis and Garcia both see time in Wednesday's match, it will not be the first time that Dynamo players (or former Dynamo players) have lined up against each other on the national scene. Here are some of the previous matchups and how each player fared:
- In 2006, the United States, featuring Brian Ching, and Canada, featuring former Dynamo players Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux, squared off in a friendly in San Diego, Calif. All three players started, but none were able to find the scoresheet as the game ended scoreless.
- There was lots of orange at the 2007 Gold Cup, as Brian Ching and Ricard Clark (USA) took on Dwayne De Rosario and Pat Onstad (Canada) in the semifinal round of the biennial tournament. Ching did not feature in the match and Clark came on in the second as a sub. Both Onstad and De Rosario started and picked up yellow cards as the United States won 2-1, before defeated Mexico 2-1 to win the tournament.
- In the 2011 Gold Cup, a Honduran team featuring former Dynamo forward Carlo Costly and current Dynamo midfielder Boniek Garcia lost 1-0 to a Jamaican squad featuring Dynamo defender Jermaine Taylor and midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson. The Jamaicans won their group but lost to the United States in the quarterfinals. Honduras advanced to the semifinals before losing 2-0 to eventual champion Mexico.
- 0-0 appears to be a familiar scoreline for U.S. / Canada matches as the two squads played to a scoreless tie on June 3, 2012 in Toronto. Former Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron was on the bench for the United States but did not feature. Former Dynamo defender Andre Hainault started and played 90 minutes in the match.
- In front of a raucous crowd, a Jamaican squad with Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson defeated a U.S. squad with former Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron in a World cup qualifying match in Kingston on Sept. 7, 2012.
- The United States returned the favor four days later when Cameron's U.S. squad defeated Taylor and Watson's Jamaican squad 1-0 at Columbus Crew Stadium. Cameron and Taylor played full time in both matches. Watson played 90 minutes in the first match and 75 in the second.
More than 100 ladies attended the first day of the 2013 Houston Dynamo Girls tryouts on Saturday at the University of Houston - Downtown Jesse H. Jones Student Life Center. The Dynamo Girls are the official dance team of the Houston Dynamo, performing at every Dynamo home game, select events throughout the community as well as serving as community ambassadors for the organization.
The auditionees were taught a routine by Dynamo Girls director Marilu Amador-Harman (and former Dynamo Girls) and then performed the routine in front of a panel of judges including Sarah Pepper and Ivan Trujillo from The HOT Show on 95.7 FM.
Of the 100 ladies who attended, 40 finalists were chosen for the final round, which will be held Sunday morning at BBVA Compass Stadium.
It is becoming an annual tradition. Dynamo preseason is in full gear, the team is traveling around the country playing friendlies and Wade Barrett is off doing something that few people are even capable of doing.
Coming on the heels of a spot on the National Soccer Hall of Fame ballot, Barrett added another accomplishment to his resume when he won the Rocky Raccoon 50-mile race in Hunstville, Texas, last weekend. The 36-year-old former Dynamo captain completed the race with a time of 6:57:42, finishing almost 38 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher.
Was Barrett surprised that he finished the race in first? Yes and no.
“There are such good runners out there that you never really think about winning,” he said. “For me, it’s about coming close to what I did two years ago because at that time I was in pretty good shape.”
Two years ago, Barrett completed the race in just over seven hours. Last year, Barrett stepped up his game and ran the 100-mile race in a time of 18 hours 17 minutes and 50 seconds. This year, he went back to the 50-mile race and was able to take seven minutes off his previous best.
Aside from improved weather conditions, the Virginia native says there was no secret to his success.
“There is no easy way to do it,” he said. “You just have to run your own race and see how you feel. It’s hard sometimes when you are running with other folks and you feel their pace and try to stick with them.
“You just need to see how you feel and I felt comfortable in the first lap, pretty comfortable in the second lap and pretty hurting in the third lap," he added. "But at that point, I just had one lap to go so I had to do the best I could.”
Although Barrett is pleased that won the race, he is not eager to get back on the trail any time soon. Right now, he is focused on giving his body some time to rest as well as focusing on his coaching duties with the Dynamo.
“[Coaching] is what I have been focused on all along, but it’s nice to get that race behind me,” he said. “I highly recommend people coming out to one of these races. You don’t even have to run them, but just watching what it takes to complete something like that is very inspiring.”
Measuring the worth of a defender is never an easy thing. Unless that defender is part of a unit that allows very few goals, or if that particular player gets forward often and contributes with goals and assists, it's difficult to tangibly identify how valuable that player is to their team.
So with today's news that the Dynamo extended the contract of Jamaican center back Jermaine Taylor, we took to Opta to determine just how valuable Taylor has been to the Dynamo over the past two years.
When one looks at Jermaine Taylor, their first impression is normally NFL running back instead of MLS center back. At 5-foot 10 and 195 pounds, Taylor is built solidy and not afraid to go in for a challenge. Opta backs up that point, as despite playing in only 27 games in 2012, Taylor led all Dynamo players in tackles with 69. Furthermore, Taylor was not only confident going into tackles, but he was efficient. His 81.16% tackle success rate was 10th best among MLS defenders last season and second best on the Dynamo (Boswell lead Houston with an 84.38% tackle success rate).
Not only was Taylor adept at making the necessary challenge, but his positioning was also some of the best in the league. The Jamaican national team veteran had seven blocks and 115 interceptions last season, good for sixth and seventh, respectively, among MLS defenders.
Despite his strong stature, Taylor might be on the shorter end of the MLS center back scale. Even on the Dynamo, Boswell is listed as 6-foot-2 and Eric Brunner is listed as 6-foot-4, while Taylor comes in at a shade under 6-foot. So it may come as a surprise to some that Taylor attempted 112 aerial challenges in 2012 (eighth highest in MLS) and won 82 of those challenges (fifth most in the league).
When talking about Taylor's best attributes, we cannot forget his passing ability. In 2012, Taylor completed 83.79% of his passes, which is good for 12th most among MLS defenders who attempted at least 1,000 passes. The league average for passing percentage among MLS defenders is 80.85%, putting Taylor well above the league average in that category.
So while it's difficult to determine a defender's value based on sight alone, with the help of our friends at Opta, the numbers show that with today's announcement, the Dynamo have locked up one of the premier defenders in MLS for years to come.
Following the Dynamo's preseason trip to Tucson, two of Houston's Supplemental Draft picks are no longer with the club. Old Dominion University forward Yannick Smith and University of California - Santa Barbara midfielder Nic Ryan were released from Houston's training camp.
In three preseason matches (two against MLS competition and one against HBU), Ryan and Smith played 86 minutes and 44 minutes, respectively.
With the departures of Ryan and Smith, there are now five players in camp who do not have a contract with the Dynamo. Those players include MLS SuperDraft second round pick Jimmy Nealis, former Dynamo defender Mike Chabala, Scottish international Calum Elliot, Supplemental Draft pick Anthony Arena and Franck Songo'o, who is under contract with the Portland Timbers, but was told he would not be a part of their plans in 2013.
The Dynamo returned to training Monday following their week in Tucson, which included a win over the Colorado Rapids and losses to the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Dynamo will play two scrimmages this week, giving Dominic Kinnear another opportunity to evaluate his squad only four weeks out from opening day.
On Wednesday, the Dynamo will take on Houston Baptist University at 7 p.m. at Sorrels Field. On Saturday, the Dynamo will host Southern Methodist University at 10 a.m. at the Houston Amateur Sports Park. Both matches are free and open to the public.
Editorial Note: Wednesday's scrimmage, which was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. will not be played at 7 p.m. Saturday's scrimmage, which was originally set for 1 p.m., will now be played at 10 a.m.