Although the players remained the same, the surroundings were different on Monday, as the Houston Dynamo decided to forego their usual practice facility on the University of Houston campus for the Rice Track/Soccer Stadium on the campus of Rice University.
The Dynamo typically split training sessions between Robertson Stadium and the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex, but the surface at Carl Lewis has deteriorated due to a heavy workload while the field at Robertson Stadium was re-laid. Monday's training was the first time the Dynamo have practiced at Rice, and many of the players welcomed the move.
“It’s a big difference,” midfielder Danny Cruz said. “You know what the ball is going to do over here. It’s a much smoother surface, and we are very fortunate that Rice has allowed us to do this.”
Cruz hopes this was just one of many visits to Rice’s campus in his future. After spending three semesters at UNLV, Cruz signed a Generation adidas contract and began his professional soccer career in January 2009. He met with Rice officials last week to discuss the possibility of continuing his education at Rice.
“I thought the meeting went great,” he said. “I hope I get accepted and can come here and become a Rice student. I’m interested in law, so I would love to get a sociology degree with a focus on law.”
Cruz is not the only Dynamo player with Rice connections. For the past four years, defender Craig Waibel served as a volunteer assistant coach for the women’s soccer team at Rice, where has wife, Julie, worked in the development office before the couple welcomed their first child during the 2009-10 offseason.
“This is hands-down a better facility,” Waibel said after greeting several of his former players who came by to watch training. “This isn’t the best I’ve ever seen this field, and it’s still 10 times better than what we were training on. As far as quality of play and the options it gives us to train, it’s night and day.”
The Dynamo hope the better practice conditions can help their preparations for Saturday’s game against Chivas USA and give some of their injured players a chance to recover.
Defender Andrew Hainault, midfielders Brad Davis and Richard Mulrooney, and forward Cam Weaver all remained at Robertson Stadium to receive treatment and recover from the weekend, and Mulrooney will undergo an MRI today after injuring his right knee in last Saturday’s game against the LA Galaxy.
The team will continue to train at Rice three days per week for up to three weeks as they look to rebound from last weekend’s loss to the Galaxy.
“We’re still trying to wash that out of our mouth,” Waibel said. “That was a pretty sick taste we all had. Practice was good though. We had a good atmosphere, and no one was complaining because it was nice to just be on a grass field.”