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A recipe for long-term success

This article appeared in the October 10, 2010 issue of the Houston Dynamo Gameday Magazine.

Andrew Hainault does not get a lot of attention for his role with the Dynamo. In fact, his name was mispronounced ‘Hay-nalt’ by team staff, broadcasters, and fans until he brought it up for correction late last season. Now that everybody knows the accurate pronunciation (‘Hay-no’), he has set about making himself a regular.

The redheaded 24-year-old leads the Dynamo in games (29, tied with Dominic Oduro), starts (27), and minutes played (2,466) in all competitions in 2010, also leading in games and minutes in MLS play. He recently scored his first goal of the season and his second career with the Dynamo, powering in a rebound against Philadelphia on October 2.

Some of the credit for his stamina, however, has to go to his chef: Andrew himself.

Along with fellow defender Eddie Robinson, Hainault is one of the team’s cooking nuts, regularly cooking for himself and his fiancée, Catherine.

“Some people eat to live, but I live to eat,” Hainault said. “I try to eat the good stuff, the natural stuff – whole-grain, low-fat, whatever. If you’re putting good fuel in, you’re going to be putting out better stuff.”

He recommends as his signature dish – although not necessarily as a pregame meal – salmon with teriyaki and sesame seeds, alongside brown rice with Parmesan cheese and grilled asparagus with carrots, admitting he adds a bit of honey to the carrots. His real weakness, however, is cheese.

“Catherine and I are both French-Canadian, and we’ve got great cheese in Québec, so we’re both cheese people,” Hainault said. “Other than that, I don’t use too many spices or sauces. I like to keep it pretty simple. We do rice, vegetables, meat or fish, and then we do lots of lentils and beans, too.”

A regular throughout this season, Hainault’s off-field habits have played a big part in keeping him fit and able to play in almost any game, regardless of the schedule or competition.

“He really takes care of himself off the field,” goalkeeper Pat Onstad said. “He drives the training staff nuts because he’s in the training room a long time, but he makes sure he’s ready to go, day in and day out, and that’s not an easy thing to do in our league with all the travel we have. To know you can count on Andrew week in and week out, that’s a nice badge of honor.”

Hainault says he is just trying to follow the lead of the Dynamo staff and the other players, like Onstad, who make sure to prepare themselves between games.

“If you want to be a professional player and have a long career, you’ve got to do those sorts of things,” Hainault said. “Somebody like Pat, he’s playing at this age because of the ice baths, the way he eats, and the way he trains. You look at that, and you think, ‘I still want to be playing soccer when I’m 35 or 40,’ so that’s the way to do it.”

Hainault followed Onstad’s lead in another way as well, making his way to Houston in 2009 after a formative stint in Europe. A native of the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec, Hainault played briefly for the Montreal Impact in 2004 before signing with a small club called SIAD Most in the Czech Republic at the young age of 18. He played for Canada at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands and saw regular playing time for Canada in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

With his contract in the Czech Republic set to expire at the end of 2008, Hainault, by then 22, hoped for a return to North America. His Canadian connection, however, sent him a far cry from the Great White North.

“The first thing that came to mind was that I was excited about coming to MLS,” Hainault said. “The second thing was, ‘Texas?’ I was a little unsure.”

Recommended by Onstad, a teammate of Hainault’s with the Canadian Gold Cup squad, and researched by head coach Dominic Kinnear, Hainault first made his way to Houston in February 2009.

“We heard he wanted to come to America, so I went and got [DVDs of] three or four games on him – the Gold Cup for Canada and a game he played in the Czech Republic,” Kinnear said. “I spoke to some people with the Canadian Soccer Association about him, and they all said that you would do well to pick him up, and that made it pretty easy.”

Hainault was initially invited as a center back, his natural position, and thought of as a potential replacement for Bobby Boswell, who was out of contract at the time. When Boswell re-signed with the club, Hainault wound up training as an outside back and eventually earned Kinnear’s confidence at that spot, too. After a lengthy dispute with SIAD Most, which claimed Hainault was still under contract, the Dynamo added him to the roster, but playing time was still hard to come by on the Houston defensive juggernaut.

“When I first came here, I said I was a central defender, but I knew that we had Eddie [Robinson] and Bobby and Geoff [Cameron] coming in,” Hainault said. “It just so happened that we were in New England, and I was on the bench, and we needed a left back, so I came in, and the rest was history.”

After stepping in that day as a substitute, Hainault started every remaining game for which he was eligible in 2009, totaling 27 starts in all competitions despite missing time due to national team duty and a red-card suspension. He split time between the left- and right-back spots, embracing the transition as a way to get on the field.

“He wants to be part of the team, and anywhere he thinks he can help or anywhere Dom puts him, he’s happy to play,” Onstad said. “He’s a right-footed player, so when he’s played left back, that’s a little more difficult in terms of being on the ball. But he’s done a great job at either left back or right back and really deserves to be on the field.”

He has more than earned his keep since that first preseason, and he claims to have even figured out Texas as well.

“You hear stories living abroad, Texas this and Texas that, so I was unsure about that,” Hainault said. “I wasn’t sure about the weather, but of course now I know: It’s HOT. But seriously, Pat and Dwayne [De Rosario] spoke very highly of the coaches and the team and the great atmosphere they had, and you can’t go wrong with that.”

A successful recipe if there’s ever been one.