World Cup Fan Blogs: Week 1

Dynamo fans report back from South Africa

WC_0617_Horne_South_Africa_fans

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy Margeaux Horne

June 17

Preseason doesn't bother Dynamo

Houston's training camp this year is unlike any other in the team's
history. For the first time since the hectic 2006 campaign, Houston is
not preparing for CONCACAF elimination rounds; the starting midfield is
the most unsettled it has ever been; and injuries both old and new have
plagued the squad.

For all that, however, the Dynamo have their eyes on the March 27 league
opener at rival FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, even if it is
five weeks away.

"We've run into a lot of injuries recently, in the last couple days, and
I think that's hurt us a little bit in terms of where guys are at, but I
think our focus is March 27 up in Dallas, and that's our sole purpose
right now," veteran goalkeeper Pat Onstad said. "We don't have to focus
on CONCACAF and try to jump in there early. We're still far from the
finished product, but hopefully we'll be ready by March 27."

Injuries include rehab for Kevin Harmse, acquired in the offseason from
Chivas USA, has yet to fully participate in drills, while Richard
Mulrooney, continues to recover from last summer's knee surgery.
Additional knocks to Andrew Hainault, Luis Angel Landín, and Craig
Waibel and national-team callups for Geoff Cameron, Brian Ching, and
Brad Davis have kept the Dynamo from any sort of lineup consistency.

Those absences, however, have provided plenty of playing time for
rookies and trialists hoping to impress head coach Dominic Kinnear and
earn a spot on the squad. This Dynamo group is unsettled perhaps more
than any other in the team's short history, with both senior and
developmental roster slots available.

"Everybody that's here is trying to first-off make the team and then
contribute, and you don't know if the guy next to you is going to be
around all year or if you will be," Mulrooney said.

Trialists Khadim Diouf, and Blessing Kaku all saw significant time in
the first three scrimmages but were let go this week and will not make
next week's trip to Florida. French midfielder Léandre Griffit will go
to Orlando trying to prove he can contribute to the Dynamo this year,
while younger players Sammy Appiah, Peter Maciel, Francisco Navas, and
David Walker are trying to earn a roster spot as well.

With the Dynamo's history of slow starts in MLS play often attributed to
their participation in CONCACAF play early in the season, Dynamo
players hope their single-minded focus on MLS play will yield positive
results this year. Onstad cautioned, however, against overconfidence.

"I think in some respects it's nice, because we don't feel pressure to
be ready right away," Onstad said. "In other respects, we've got to be
careful and not to be complacent so that all of a sudden the season is
upon us and we're not ready."

Anxious to get back into action, Mulrooney said the Dynamo are on track
to gauge their progress at the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic in
Orlando February 25-27 in which Houston will face New York in the
semifinals.

"I think we're exactly where we're supposed to be," Mulrooney said.
"We've won against college teams and won handily. There would be
concerns if we didn't win those games or, more importantly, if we didn't
play well, but I thought we played pretty well, with the exception of
maybe one half. Come Orlando time, those games are going to be big
because it's the competition we're going to be playing all year long,
and we'll see how we've done in preseason - if we're up to the level or
if we've fallen behind, but I think we're above the curve right now."

Margeaux Horne

I've been in South Africa for a couple of weeks but hadn't gotten to any games until yesterday. On my flight over, there were six FIFA World Cup refs from Mexico, and I got to take a picture with Marco Rodriguez, who wound up reffing the Germany-Australia game. I had another celebrity sighting a couple days ago in Sun City, when we ran into Asamoah Gyan, who scored Ghana's penalty kick against Serbia. He was really nice, and we took another picture.

We went to our first game of the tournament last night, South Africa-Uruguay. The game was at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, and we
were lucky because we didn't have to do a park-and-ride. One of our friends
works nearby, and we walked about a mile to the stadium! That day, almost everyone was wearing something Bafana Bafana, so the spirit was
alive and it was great! We walked there all dressed up, and it was amazing!

French trialists debut in training

The two new faces in the Houston Dynamo's training session Thursday may
come from the same country and play the same position, but they were
plenty easy to tell apart.

Khadim Diouf looked more like a basketball player, towering above his
teammates at a lanky 6-foot-4 and sporting a headband in the steady
rain. Léandre Griffit, standing a more average 5-foot-8, sported neon
green boots in the slick conditions. Both impressed in their first day
with their new squad.

"It is hard to say anything after one day, but I thought they came in
and worked hard," Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "You never
know what their travel schedules have been like, but you can't look at
those guys and say they were disappointing."

A third trialist, Nigerian Blessing Kaku, is expected to join the Dynamo
on Friday, and Kinnear hinted there may be more new faces to come as
preseason continues.

For now, the 25-year-old Griffit - a veteran of Southampton and Crystal
Palace in the English Premier League - showed slightly better on the
first day. Despite his smaller stature (5-foot-8), he showed outstanding
technique as a central midfielder in 11 v. 11 scrimmages, rarely taking
more than three touches and moving the ball quickly. He also handled
some of the physical challenges that can be expected in the American
game.

"I can play on the left or the right, but most of the time I like to
play in the middle of the pitch," Griffit said. "My best thing is my
technique and my speed, so I hope I can bring something different to the
team, because it's always good for the coach to have many options in
the midfield."

A former French youth international, Griffit also had an easier time
fitting in and communicating with the Dynamo players thanks to English
picked up during his stints in England.

"I know this is a really good team in America, so I'm really glad to be
with them," Griffit said after the training session before being asked
about differences in style of play. "Football in Europe sometimes goes
more slowly; we keep the ball a little bit more. Here, it's my first
day, so I didn't know what to expect."

Diouf showed good touch in small-sided drills but seemed to take a
little longer to settle in during a roughly 45-minute scrimmage. He
played centrally alongside draft pick Samuel Appiah, with Griffit and
guest player Peter Maciel on the opposing squad.

Diouf, Griffit, and possibly Kaku will feature in Saturday's scrimmage
against SMU, open only to season ticket holders and kicking off at 11
a.m. at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex. As in last week's
scrimmage against Houston Baptist, Kinnear said he expects to play two
completely different squads in the two halves.

"These guys know expectations are always to go out there and work hard,
work on your game, and work on our strengths," Kinnear said. "It's
important that we try to get a result, because we should be winning
these games that we play early on, and then obviously you get to see in a
competitive environment the players you've brought in, whether it be by
draft or to look at, to see if these guys are good enough."

Security was easy, and everyone was so kind and accommodating. Everyone was
blowing their vuvuzelas and waving their flags! Since my boyfriend is South
African, I was obviously cheering my heart out for South Africa! Our seat were at the
corner, but we could still see the game well. I was tearing up during the South African national anthem, because everyone was singing their heart out and just ready to play. We were all quite upset about the result but are ready for the USA game
tomorrow!

June 16

Luck's letter to Dynamo fans, supporters

HOU_stadium_rendering

Photo Credit: 
Populous

Open Letter to Dynamo Fans and Supporters,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 will be a day that Dynamo fans should long remember. Harris County Commissioners Court met today, and buried on page 24 of the Court agenda there was an action item. It read as follows: Request for approval of an agreement between the county, the City of Houston and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority regarding construction of a soccer stadium in Precinct 1. After 30 minutes of discussion by the commissioners and the county judge, as well as both positive and negative comments from a variety of public speakers, the court voted and passed the item by a vote of 5-0.

These are the words that Houston-area soccer fans of all stripes have been waiting for. Let’s think back to December 16, 2005, when on the steps of Houston City Hall, Mayor Bill White and Commissioner Sylvia Garcia welcomed Dominic Kinnear, Wade Barrett, and Pat Onstad to Houston. The three gentlemen were still somewhat in shock, as they had not fully internalized the decision that had been made to relocate the San Jose Earthquakes from California to Texas. Befitting Pat’s status as a proud Canadian, a cold wind from the north greeted Dom and the players as they made remarks to the assembled media.
 
At the time, the Dynamo did not exist. We had no employees, no offices, no name. We had a group of players and coaches who had been living in Northern California for years and in the span of a few hours had to face important decisions about whether they wanted to pack up their belongings and move to Houston. Clearly, we had a lot of work to do at the time.

But we had a very powerful ally that drove us on a daily basis. That ally was a vision for what we could build with soccer in Houston. Together with the fans across all demographic groups, we jointly visualized a downtown stadium, just a free kick away from Minute Maid Park in the heart of East Downtown. A stadium almost literally in the shadows of the downtown skyscrapers. A stadium that would symbolize the arrival of the sport and of the team. A stadium that would serve to help unify sports fans all across the broad spectrum of life here in Harris County. We envisioned a stadium that would welcome fans of the game. A stadium that would attract sports enthusiasts who had no idea of what a 4-4-2 or a red card was. A stadium that would offer the myriad of companies in Houston a chance to show off their chosen city and entertain clients and guests.

Well, with the unanimous vote this week by Harris County Commissioners Court and the similarly unanimous vote last week by Houston City Council, we - players, coaches, staff, and most importantly the fans and supporters - are one enormous step closer to making our vision a reality. Many people have been working on this, and we are particularly grateful to Commissioners Garcia and Lee, as well as Mayor Parker and Councilmember Rodriguez.  Other folks who have helped enormously may not be familiar to the Dynamo community, but without the support of Andy Icken, Chief Development Officer of the City of Houston, and David Turkel, Director of Community Services for Harris County, I can assure you that we would not have moved off of dead-center.

Dynamo fans, you have been rock-solid in your support of this effort. On behalf of the team, I want to thank you for taking the time to communicate with and appear before City Council and Commissioners Court. Your unwavering belief in the project did not go unnoticed by our elected officials, and because of your dedication, we are on the cusp of something very special. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Oliver Luck
President/General Manager, Houston Dynamo

Ed Camara - Soccer 4 All

We are in the beautiful Durban Stadium awaiting the start of the Spain-Switzerland match ... magnificent!

June 15

Ed Camara - Soccer 4 All

What a different two days in South Africa ... We arrived in Durban yesterday, and the weather was beautiful ... Temperatures in the 70s. We had a stroll on the beach on the Indian Ocean. However, today the weather changed dramatically with highs in the 50s ... We decided to drive through a game park and saw hippos, wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, and antelope. Came back and watched both Portugal-Ivory Coast and Brazil-North Korea at our Guest House. Tomorrow we have tickets to the Spain-Switzerland game in Durban before leaving on Thursday for Nelspruit.

June 13

Jhonathan Montenegro

On a very pleasent afternoon yesterday, my friends and I left
Jo'burg headed to Rustenburg, where the USA was facing England. The
drive took about two hours. We left at noon (South African time) to
have pleny of time before the match began. We did have to make at least five or six U-turns, since we don't know the area and you have to drive on
the left side of the road in South Africa. On the way to Rustenburg,
we stopped and ate at an Irish pub, thinking that if we ran into any rowdy England fans, the Irish would have our
backs, considering the Irish are not very fond of the English. We did
run into a couple of English fans at the pub, but they were very cool.
They were wearing England, Manchester United, and Chelsea jerseys. Many
of the English fans also had flags on their backs.

We arrived to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in
Rustenburg between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. The game didn't start
until 8:30 pm. The celebrations were already taking place; I would say
there were 65 percent English fans to 35 percent American fans.
Everybody was blowing their Vuvuzuelas, drinking, dancing, and singing
chants. It was a very healthy rivalry in Rustenburg.

Reserves: HOU 1, RSL 0

We met a really cool U.S. fan before the game. His name is Ryan, and he lives
in Scotland at the moment, but he was born in Houston. He was wearing
Chingy's US jersey and a Dynamo headband, so we had to grab a picture.

We entered the stadium at 8 p.m. to watch the teams
do their pre-match warm-ups. The Royal Bafokeng Stadium was covered
with England flags, but both the US and England fans were equally as
loud. England looked very determined in the first minutes of the match,
which allowed them to score first after a great assist by Heskey and
very precise Gerrard finish. Afte being down a goal, USA got stronger
and started pressuring more in all their lines, especially in the
backline. The US responded with a header by Altidore that went wide
after a great cross by Donovan. Lennon and Rooney gave the US defense a
lot of trouble. Lennon had some great runs and very dangerous crosses
to Howard's box, but Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu would be there to deflect
them out of trouble for the US. 

Donovan, Findley, and Dempsey started getting more
involved, and the US started creating goal situations. Gerard and
Lampard from England did an outstanding job closing down the US
attacks. But toward the end of the first half on a play that didn't
look like it would have any danger for England, Dempsey controlled the
ball outside the English box and set himself up for a shot with his
left foot. Dempsey unleashed the shot that didn't have much power, but
it was low, and you never know what kind of bounce the new Adidas
Jabulani is going to take. Green. The goalkeeper for England seemed
very confident, and it looked like it would be a very easy save, but after
the ball hit Green's gloves, it made a very strange bounce and rolled
into the net very slowly. The American fans were louder than the
English for the first time in the match for a few minutes, chanting "USA!
USA! USA!"

Dynamo train in Vancouver

England had most of the control in the second half of
the match. Lennon again made great runs, Rooney was creating plays and
taking shots on Howard, and Heskey had the most clear goal opportunity
for England when he had a one-on-one against Howard, but his shot was
caught by the American goalkeeper. USA also had a chance to get the win
when Jozy Altidore powered himself through the English defense and only
had Green to beat, but Altidore opted to go near-post with his shot,
were Green was positioned. It was a great save by the English
goalkeeper that got help from the post to maintain a 1-1 score. It was pretty cool to see a guy raised in Houston and a former Dynamo player take the field when Stuart Holden came on late, joining another former Dynamo - Ricardo Clark - in the game.

In the
last minutes of the game, it seemed that both the English and Americans
were more concerned not to lose the game, rather than go for the win.
The game ended with a very exciting 1-1 tie, and the USA continue to
have a better record against England in World Cup play. Let's hope USA has a better record then England in
the group stage and qualifies first in Group C. If the USA doesn't
qualify first, it might have to play Germany in the next round, which
it would be another hard match-up for the USA.

June 12

Ed Camara - Soccer 4 All

A sea of yellow last night at the opening game ... and
the game didn't disappoint. South African fans are all so pleasant
and excited to have the World Cup here. They were crushed when Marquez
tied the game up, but they continued to blow horns the entire game. We
are now on the way to THE GAME in Rustenberg ... a 3-hour drive from
Johannesburg for the 8:30 p.m. (local time) game. Unfortunately that means we probably won't get back to our hotel until
2 in the morning. I can't wait to sing the national anthem as USA fans
sing the loudest of anyone. More later ...

June 11

Dynamo at MSR Houston

Jhonathan Montenegro

I'm leaving London headed to Johannesburg and met up with some USA fans in the airport. The guy on the far right is wearing the jersey the U.S. wore when they beat England 1-0 back in the World Cup in 1950.

Charities Cup press conference

Ed Camara - Soccer 4 All

As we took the bus to the pregame festivities for the opening game at Soccer City in Johannesburg today, all the Mexican invitees from adidas are on the same bus, dressed in Mexico's black jerseys.

Bolton 2, Dynamo 0

Once we arrived, we got to witness the opening ceremonies ... awesome.

 

 

June 10

Ed Camara - Soccer 4 All

We arrived at 8 a.m. this morning after
a 15-hour flight from New York ... the longest flight my wife Cece, my
grandson Tyler, and I have ever been on. As soon as we arrived, I had
to go upstairs ahead of everyone to collect our World Cup tickets to five different games, including the USA-England game!

Green- and white-clad
Mexican fans were everywhere, and one especially loud one was already
dressed to party in a sombrero and colorful poncho. All the other
Mexican fans were taking pictures with him.

After waiting 30 minutes to
get to the front of the line, we had our tickets and were off to an
Adidas World Cup launch welcome for their top soccer specialty
retailers. Now we are just trying to stay awake for dinner and a special South African dance show tonight before we crash.

Tomorrow
is the opening match, Mexico-South Africa, and we will be there early to
watch all the pre-game festivities. More to follow ...