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.
I asked seven Dynamo players their predictions for tomorrow's Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. Six of the seven players are predicting the 49ers will win their sixth Super Bowl. Below are the predictions, along with a note on what they expect from the game.
Goalkeeper Tyler Deric: 49ers, 30-13. “They have been the better team all year. Kaepernick will lead them to win. Baltimore will struggle to score against the 49ers defense.”
Forward Cam Weaver: 49ers, by two touchdowns. “Well, the Seahawks destroyed them when they played, and a 49ers win would validate them. 49ers are in the same division as Seahawks, so they need to represent well.”
Defender Eric Brunner: 49ers, 34-30. “I think Ray Lewis will either have two tackles or 15 tackles. Also, heads will be the call on the coin toss.”
Midfielder Adam Moffat: 49ers, 27-24. “Tails will be the call on the coin toss.”
Midfielder Alex Dixon: 49ers, 24-10.
Defender Kofi Sarkodie: Ravens. “I am hoping Ray Lewis wins and ends his career on a good note.”
Forward Brian Ching: 49ers. “As long as they win by four points, I’ll be happy.”
Goalkeeper Tally Hall: 49ers. "I was a big fan of Jerry Rice and my aunt sent me some sweet 49ers sweat pants when I was a kid."
To say that Major League Soccer has come a long way over the past 18 years would probably be a bit of an understatement. With games regularly scheduled on the ESPN family of networks on the NBC family of networks and with a game on the main Univision channel this year, MLS is getting more exposure than ever.
That exposure has paid off, as MLS was selected to be one of the companies featured on the new CBS reality series The Job. The show will feature five candidates participating in several rounds of elimination challenges before a panel of executives as they compete for their dream job.
Not only are we excited to see MLS get featured on a CBS primetime show, but we, in Houston, are very excited to see one of our own competing on the show.
Crystal Solomon, an Assignment Manager at CW 39 at KIAH-TV, will be one of the five contestants competing for a job as an associate producer position at MLSsoccer.com, the League’s official website. The panel of judges who will determine the fate of the contestants includes: President of Soccer United Marketing, MLS’ commercial arm, Kathy Carter; Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handler; Executive Vice President, Competition, Technical & Game Operations Nelson Rodriguez; and MLSsoccer.com Editor-in-Chief Greg Lalas, among others.
We have not had the chance the speak with Crystal about the show, but according to her bio, she has been with CW-39 since March 2011. Prior to that she worked for the FOX Broadcasting Company and and KPRC-TV.
The MLS episode of "The Job" will air on Friday, March 1 from 7-8 p.m. CT on the CBS Television Network.
We'll update you again after the show, but we want to wish Crystal the best of luck as she pursues her dream job!
Last week, U.S. Soccer announced the list of nominees for the National Soccer Hall of Fame class of 2013. The list includes a compilation of some of the most talented players to play the game including: Taylor Twellman, Roy Lassiter, Ben Olsen and Chris Henderson among others.
But for Dynamo fans, one name stands out above the rest.
Making his first appearance on the National Soccer Hall of Fame player ballot is Wade Barrett. The former Dynamo defender and current Dynamo assistant coach is one of the most decorated players to wear the orange, not to mention one of the most fit people we know.
An original member of the Dynamo, Barrett played two stints with the San Jose Earthquakes (1998-2002 and 2005), winning the 2001 MLS Cup championship, before moving with the club to Houston prior to the 2006 season. The Virginia Beach native captained the Dynamo from 2006-2009 and led the club to two MLS Cup titles (2006 and 2007) and the 2009 Western Conference championship game. Barrett finished his career with 140 appearances in all competitions including 99 in MLS play.
Prior to the 2010 season, Barrett retired from playing to join Dominic Kinnear's coaching staff. With Barrett on the staff, the Dynamo have advanced to the past two MLS Cup finals. Barrett also co-managed (along with Steve Ralston) the Dynamo Reserves to the 2012 Reserve League Central/Mountain division championship.
The hall of fame voting pool includes all past and present full men's and women's national team coaches, all active MLS and NWSL head coaches with a minimum of four years of experience as a head coach in a first division league, MLS and NWSL management representatives, MLS Commissioner, NWSL Executive Director, U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General, U.S. Soccer President, designated media members, and all Hall of Famers.
Each voter can list up to 10 candidates per ballot. Any player appearing on at least 66.7 percent of ballots will earn election, while any player who does not appear on at least five percent of ballots will be dropped from the Player ballot.
2013 National Soccer Hall of Fame Player Ballot
Wade Barrett *
Raul Diaz Arce
Angela Hucles *
Ben Olsen *
Tony Sanneh *
Taylor Twellman *
* First year of eligibility ^ Final year of eligibility; moves to Veteran ballot in 2014
Back in December, Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall proved his "hipness" by participating in the "Houston is Hip" campaign for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The marketing initiative was launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the GHCVB.
The folks at www.visithoustontexas.com caught up with the Dynamo goalkeeper to talk about life in Houston and what he enjoys doing away from the pitch. Is it any surprise that Hall, a fun-loving guy, picked the Houston Zoo as his favorite place to go in the city?