After months of negotiations, the Houston Dynamo joined the ranks of MLS teams preparing to welcome top-flight European competition this summer. Houston announced Monday that the club will host Bolton Wanderers for the third annual Dynamo Charities Cup on July 20 at Robertson Stadium. And while the name on the front of the jersey is important, for the Dynamo, the one on the back of the No. 8 jersey was the dealmaker.
Stuart Holden’s rising star at the Reebok Stadium made Bolton an ideal option for the Dynamo. The Houston-raised former MLS All-Star is a major attraction for the fan base, and his presence made the Trotters a slam-dunk choice. However, Holden’s season-ending knee injury and his questionable participation in the game put the deal on hold momentarily.
“We have a Dynamo Fan Advisory Board, and we called them into action,” Dynamo president of business operations Chris Canetti explained at Monday’s press conference. “Without a doubt, a majority of our board said they wanted to see Bolton, whether Stuart was in the game or not. They’ve created a bond with Bolton, because they’ve followed it since Stuart moved over there.”
The vote of confidence from the fans paved the way for Holden and his current club to come to Houston and showcase their talents. Led by second-year manager Owen Coyle, Bolton currently sit eighth in the Barclays Premier League and advanced to semifinals of the FA Cup this spring. Holden was a big part of that success, leading the EPL in tackles won early in the season and providing a steadying influence in Bolton’s midfield. For the 25-year-old U.S. international, the affection of his hometown club was something special.
“The reception I got from the fans really touched me,” Holden said. “When I walked past El Batallón and the Texian Army, and to hear them chanting my name, for me, that made me realize how much I miss Houston and how grateful I am to the Dynamo organization and to the fans for supporting me and still considering me a part of their franchise.”
Holden will likely miss out on the July match against his old club, but everyone felt confident that his current club will put on a great display. For the Dynamo, playing a competitive EPL team is a chance to gauge themselves and refresh their batteries against a quality European opponent.
“It’s always good to have something different during the season,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “For our guys to challenge themselves, you have to play against the best competition. With Stuart being at Bolton, we all follow them a little more than we did in the past, so now we know their players, and they’re a very good team, and it will be a great challenge for us.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.