“You’ll never beat Pat Onstad” would ring out of the supporters' sections at Robertson Stadium and you knew the goalkeeper had just made another save.
That song was heard a number of times during Onstad’s career in Houston, especially when the club was winning back-to-back MLS Cup championships in 2006 and 2007. His stellar play in goal was a big reason for the Dynamo’s success as the Canadian international was a security blanket for one of the league’s best defenses.
Now the Dynamo legend – who retired at the end of 2010 – returns to Houston on Friday as not only the goalkeepers coach but the backup goalkeeper for D.C. United. And while he may be the opponent at Robertson Stadium, Onstad will feel right at home.
“It was five pretty good years of my life,” said Onstad of his time in Houston. “On the field we had some great memories. Off the field, we [his wife and three children] made some really good friends.”
Onstad started 170 games for the Houston Dynamo in all competitions, and his stellar play vaulted him into Dynamo lore. A goalkeeper who got better with age, Onstad quickly became a fan favorite upon arrival in Houston with his fiery demeanor and repeated ability to make the big save when his team needed it the most. His penalty-kick save on Jay Heaps in the 2006 MLS Cup final shootout sealed the win for the Dynamo, giving the city its first of two MLS Cup championships.
Often playing in front of the club’s supporters groups the veteran goalkeeper developed a great relationship with the fans. The groups serenaded him and taunted opponents about their inability to beat one of MLS’ best goalkeepers.
“In Houston, the fans were great, and they were very supportive of the club and me,” he said. “The players in Houston understand the relationship between the fans and the club. [The Dynamo] did well to keep the stream of involvement between the two open and made the fans a part of the organization. I think the players and the fans really like that part of it.”
Now Onstad returns to Houston on the bench of an opposing team. Although he joined D.C. United as a goalkeepers coach, injuries during preseason forced the 43-year-old goalkeeper back into action. Onstad started the first three games of the season but now serves as a coach, mentor, and backup to 19-year-old Bill Hamid. And while he will likely watch from the sideline Friday night, the 14-year-veteran will be staring down the sideline at old friends and into the stands at affectionate supporters.
“It’ll be a little different,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and seeing some of the players we spent five-plus years with, as well as getting an opportunity to see the fans and stadium.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.