With the MLS All-Star Game rolling through Houston for its 15th edition, it seemed fitting that MLSsoccer.com paid respect to the Bayou City's soccer culture, both past and present. We dug into the archives, chatted with Houston soccer luminaries and made painful roster cuts in order to come up with our all-time Houston Best XI. Agree with our selections? Who did we miss? Let us know!
GK: Pat Onstad
A Dynamo original, Onstad manned the pipes through two championship-winning seasons, and he's also a two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and Best XI selection. At 42, the Canadian international is easily the oldest player in the league, but the flashes of grey in his hair have done little to temper the ability one of MLS' all-time greats who, heading into the 2010 season, was the league's all-time leader in goals-against average (1.05).
DF: Chris Gbandi
The Houstonian was a member of the Connecticut Huskies side that featured four other players from the area (Garrett Grinsfelder, Edwin Rivera, Sam Forko, Ryan Brown) and won the NCAA championship in 2000. That year, he collected the Hermann trophy and was taken first overall by Dallas in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. After playing 111 games for Dallas, he enjoyed a stint in Norway. He returned to the U.S. this year and now plays for USSF-D2 side Miami FC.
DF: Eddie Robinson
With all the talk of Manchester United and their long-serving one-club stars such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, it's refreshing to know that level of loyalty does exist in MLS. The Earthquakes drafted Robinson in 2001, and the defender followed the team when they relocated to Houston. He has since made 147 appearances for the franchise, collecting two championships and a Best XI nod in the process.
DF: Wade Barrett
Originally drafted by the San Jose Clash in 1998, Barrett is widely considered one of the greatest defenders in MLS history. After a stint in Europe, Barrett returned to San Jose, with whom he won a championship. However, it was his leadership as captain of the back-to-back championship-winning Dynamo that helped etch his name into Houston lore. Barrett missed just one game during those two campaigns; he has since retired but continues as a Dynamo assistant coach.
MF: Imad Baba
The Palestinian-born midfielder grew up in the Houston area and enjoyed a trial at Man Utd. after being the only player to have been selected to Parade Magazine's high school All-American team four times. He was drafted in the inaugural MLS SuperDraft and enjoyed a six-year career with the Revs and the Rapids. As a member of the U.S. U-16s, he scored the winning goal as the Yanks defeated Brazil in the 1989 U-16 World Championship.
MF: Johnny Torres
Though Colombian-born, Torres grew up in Houston after moving there at age 5. He played 113 games in MLS with the Revs, Fusion and Fire, but also enjoyed a long career in indoor soccer, in which he scored 41 goals in 99 appearances for the Milwaukee Wave. He was named the 1996 Soccer America Player of the Year and collected the Hermann trophy in 1997 while at Creighton, whom he helped to the national championship game.
MF: Susan Bush
While still in high school, Houston-born Bush became the youngest player to suit up for the U.S. women's national team during their qualification for the now-legendary 1999 World Cup. She earned 10 caps for the Nats, tallying three goals and six assists—including a goal and four serves in an 8-0 thrashing of Costa Rica. She also earned three national championships with North Carolina before joining the WUSA.
MF: Stuart Holden
Scottish-born but a U.S. National Team regular, Holden grew up on the soccer pitches of Houston and starred for the famed Texans youth team. After a brief stint at Clemson, he signed a contract with English club Sunderland, though he never made an appearance. However, he returned to his adopted hometown where his versatility and creativity ensured he would become a Dynamo fan favorite. After collecting two championships and league First XI honors, he signed with EPL side Bolton.
MF: Dwayne De Rosario
De Rosario was the first player to win two MLS Cup MVP awards after earning the honor with Houston in 2007. A member of the Dynamo side that collected back-to-back championships, DeRo was much loved by the Houston faithful for his all-out commitment and clutch plays. He was named an All-Star in all his three seasons with the Dynamo, for whom he made 75 appearances and scored 24 goals.
FW: Brian Ching
Simply put, Ching is a Dynamo legend. The Hawaiian scored four goals in Houston's first-ever game, and went on to earn the 2006 MLS Cup MVP after burying the tying goal and the clinching PK. That same year, he earned the MLS Goal of the Year honor for an outrageous bicycle kick against D.C. United. His 68 goals for the Dynamo have him as the club's all-time leading scorer, and he's earned Houston's golden boot for the past three years.
FW: Jose Neto
Forward Neto joined the Houston Dynamos (note the plural in the name) of the United Soccer League in 1984. That year he was named league MVP after scoring 22 goals in 21 appearances as he led the Dynamos to the championship series, which they lost to Fort Lauderdale. His teammate that year, Glenn Davis, said of Neto that "playing was effortless to him. I used to think, 'You know, that's just too easy. That's not right.'"
Head coach: Dominic Kinnear
The Dynamo are battling through a tough period right now, but there's little doubt that Kinnear will have his men in the postseason mix come November. In fact, Houston have yet to miss out on the playoffs with Kinnear at the helm, making the Dynamo one of the most feared sides in the league. Having already helped the Quakes earn two MLS Cups and a Supporters' Shied, the Scottish-born coach led the Dynamo to two straight MLS championships in 2006 and 2007 and the Western Conference regular season title in 2008.
Assistant coach: Taher Khalili
Khalili coaches five youth teams in the Houston Football Association, and he runs a tight ship: The players call him "Sir," they don't dive and they certainly don't answer back to the referee. As Mary DeBauche, an administrator at the Houston Football Association said, "He's training his players to be excellent men, not just good soccer players.
Honorable mentions: Arturo Alvarez, Craig Waibel, Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, Mario Tito, Glenn Davis, Juan Carlos Michia, Bobby Lennox, Beto Dos Santos, Ato Leone, Nebo Bandovic, James Clarkson, Kyle Rote Jr., Jerry Mueller.