Several years may have passed, but the memories of Dwayne De Rosario in Houston are still fresh in the minds of many Dynamo fans.
A central figure in Houston’s two MLS Cup championships in 2006 and 2007, the Canadian international gets to return to the place he helped transform into a soccer city when his new club, the New York Red Bulls, comes to town Saturday night (7:30 p.m.).
Houston’s former talisman and one of the league's most exciting players, De Rosario left the Dynamo after the 2008 season to move to his hometown club in Toronto.
“It was very difficult to leave [Houston],” De Rosario said. “Being with [manager] Dominic [Kinnear] for quite some time, we created a very good relationship, and it was the same with quite a few of the players.”
That relationship matured when Houston welcomed its new MLS club in 2006, the first of back-to-back MLS Cup titles. During those first years in Houston, De Rosario became a fan favorite, winning over supporters with his creativity and goal-scoring abilities.
“It’s been very positive going back [to Houston], because [the fans] appreciate me, and it’s certainly mutual,” De Rosario said. “Houston has a great fan base, and I’m very happy they’re getting a stadium. It’s much deserved.”
Dynamo fans were not the only ones in love with De Rosario. The club’s management made several attempts to bring the midfielder back to Houston earlier this season but fell short in their bid.
“I didn’t really know that there was interest there," De Rosario said. "But when I did find out, I knew that the relationship I had with Dom [Kinnear] was a healthy one and he was a great coach and mentor. Knowing they would take me back was a good feeling, and it shows there were no hard feelings from when I left.”
After burning the Dynamo for two goals on his most recent return to Robertson Stadium last year with Toronto, De Rosario will be making his first visit as a member of the Red Bulls. New York and Houston previously met in Week 2 at Red Bull Arena, where they played to a 1-1 tie with De Rosario notching an assist in his New York debut.
The former Dynamo playmaker, who has three goals and one assist in five all-time games against the Dynamo and scored in last year's MLS All-Star Game in Houston, is now looking to put on another All-Star performance in the city he once called home.
“Houston wasn’t really too much of a soccer city, but we put it on the map,” De Rosario said. “Football was big there, and after our first successful year we put [soccer] on the map. The organization has really done a lot to make strides there, and it’s great to see soccer really developing there.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.