The Dynamo's target this weekend: three points, one cannon, state pride. Houston will look to bounce back from a defeat by handing FC Dallas their first loss of the season at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday (7 p.m. CT, TICKETS).
Striker Omar Cummings believes that the Texas Derby is the perfect fixture for the Dynamo to shrug off the disappointment of last weekend's 2-1 defeat by the Vancouver Whitecaps and continue their strong early home form.
"You always feel like if you go on the road and didn't get the results you want, coming back home you want to secure those points and if you get the maximum points at home then you do pretty well in MLS," Cummings told HoustonDynamo.com.
"Especially seeing that it is Dallas, it's a rivalry, those are always fun. Fans get into it and it makes it a really interesting game."
The Dynamo kicked off 2014 by hosting the New England Revolution and Montreal Impact and won both games before the trip to Vancouver. Dallas, another Western Conference team, will arrive in confident mood having won three and drawn one of their four fixtures so far under new head coach Oscar Pareja to top the early standings.
Pareja left the Colorado Rapids to replace Schellas Hyndman, who stepped down last October after Dallas failed to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Dallas did, however, reclaim El Capitán from the Dynamo in March: earning the right to keep the Civil War-era replica howitzer for the season thanks to a disputed late winner from Kenny Cooper in a 3-2 victory in Frisco. As the clubs are currently in different conferences they only play each other once per year in the regular season.
Cummings knows Pareja from their time together at Colorado in 2012, when the Jamaican started 23 regular season games under him. "He likes to pass and move and keep the game flowing, short passes," said the 31-year-old.
"He likes his defenders and midfielders to be aggressive in their tackles, go in hard and challenge for every ball. I think it will be a physical game but very tactical at the same time."
On Tuesday the identity of this year's opponents in the BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup was revealed, with English Premier League club Aston Villa set to face Houston on July 26. Villa will also play an exhibition game against Dallas during their Texas tour.
Cummings went on trial with the club from Birmingham after the 2010 MLS season. That year he scored 14 MLS goals—his best tally to date—and Colorado won MLS Cup courtesy of a 2-1 win over Dallas after extra time.
Despite his prolific season, the offer of a trial from then-Villa manager Gerard Houllier came out of the blue. "I was having fun with the family and got the call for a trial. I was like, alright, cool, it's something you don't pass up," said Cummings.
He said that although work permit issues ultimately put an end to his chances of signing for the team, he enjoyed his time in England's second city. "It was good, it was fun," he recalled, adding that the excited reactions of the cab drivers taking him to training made him realize how important the club was to the community.
"One of the funniest things that happened was taking a taxi to practice every day. The different drivers, their reaction to going there—it was like a football [paradise]," Cummings said. He can expect to see plenty of Texas passion and pride in the stands on Saturday night.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.