Brian Ching accumulated a huge stack of Texas Derby memories during his eight seasons as a Dynamo striker. What stood out for him the most was the noise and passion generated by supporters. "I remember our crowds," he told HoustonDynamo.com. "That energy and that rivalry between the cities found its way to the games in a lot of ways."
Ahead of the 25th meeting between Houston and FC Dallas on Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium (7 p.m. CT, TICKETS), here we look back at five classic derby encounters.
Houston knocked their opponents out of the playoffs on arguably the most dramatic and important night in the rivalry's history. Incredibly, it was the sixth game between the clubs in the space of 152 days. They met four times in league play, the Dynamo winning three and the other match ending in a draw.
Dallas won 1-0 in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal, setting the stage for an electric night at Robertson Stadium in the return fixture. More than 30,000 fans saw an early Carlos Ruiz goal put the Dynamo in an 0-2 hole, but a red card for Arturo Alvarez early in the second half helped turn the momentum in the home team's favor.
Stuart Holden pulled a goal back after 66 minutes and Ching grabbed the aggregate equalizer six minutes later to send the contest into extra time. The striker scored again from close range and Brad Davis added a superb free kick to seal a 4-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate). Dominic Kinnear's men progressed and beat Kansas City in the Western Conference final, then New England in MLS Cup—successfully defending the title they had won in their inaugural season.
Recalling the match this week, Ching described it as one of the defining nights in Dynamo history. "Finishing that game it was just one of those magical moments that created what the Dynamo are seen as around the league and in the city: playoff winners, resilient, a team that never gives up and you can never count out in the playoffs. That's the effect of the crowd and the heat of the moment," he said.
The first ever Texas Derby was a classic that drew more than 21,000 fans to Robertson Stadium. Ricardo Clark from distance, Ching and Dwayne De Rosario put the Dynamo 3-0 up at halftime, but that seemingly unassailable lead was put under threat by two goals in two minutes from Carlos Ruiz and Ramon Nunez around the hour mark. De Rosario's second midway through the period made it 4-2, but Dallas replied through Drew Moor to make for a tense last fifteen minutes.
Houston held on to hand the visitors their first loss of the year. Ching had been named to the U.S. 2006 World Cup roster only four days earlier and this was his last MLS game before leaving for Germany. Fans paid tribute to him with congratulatory signs and cheers, while players and staff chanted "USA! USA!" in his honor in the locker room afterwards, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A third-round draft pick by the name of Geoff Cameron made himself an instant Houston hero with an equalizer in second-half stoppage time as the Dynamo grabbed a draw in their MLS home opener. Making his first MLS start, the rookie met a Ching pass and thumped the ball into the net from 18 yards.
It was a thrilling end to a match replete with dangerous attacking but sloppy defending from Kinnear's men, who lost goalkeeper Pat Onstad to injury after 28 minutes. New signing Franco Caraccio put Houston ahead only for Kenny Cooper to hit back with two goals before halftime. Moor turned a Cameron cross into his own net to make it 2-2 but Dallas restored their advantage two minutes later through Alvarez. Then along came Cameron.
Houston put on another late, late show in the next meeting between the clubs the following month—sub Corey Ashe scored his first career goal then was involved in De Rosario's stoppage-time leveler as the Dynamo stole a point in a 2-2 draw at Pizza Hut Park.
Adam Moffat was known for spectacular strikes during his time in southeast Texas and the midfielder delivered in style here, scoring a 76th-minute game-winner in the first Texas Derby at BBVA Compass Stadium in what was only the fourth MLS fixture at the new arena.
Will Bruin gave the Dynamo the lead after three minutes courtesy of a lucky deflection. Another fortunate bounce gave Jackson the opportunity to equalize shortly before the hour mark. That might have shifted the momentum in out-of-form Dallas's favor, but soon afterwards their left back, Jair Benitez, was ejected for a foul on Colin Clark that prompted angry scenes among the players.
The destiny of El Capitán was settled when Moffat struck to leave Dallas facing a run of eleven successive games without a win in all competitions. Visiting goalkeeper Kevin Hartman pushed a Brad Davis corner out to Moffat, who was lurking in space near the far post. He controlled the ball and sent a venomous shot through a crowd of players into the top corner. The Scotsman and his teammate in central midfield that day, Je-Vaughn Watson, now play their soccer in Frisco.
Late goals in a gritty comeback? Check. But this time, the Dynamo were undone at the death as Dallas grabbed a controversial winner in the most recent MLS encounter between the sides.
Schellas Hyndman's team went ahead after 34 minutes. A free kick was floated into the box and as Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell challenged for the ball with George John, Boswell's header caromed off John and into the net. Two minutes later another set-piece was costly for the Men in Orange as Andrew Jacobson converted David Ferreira's corner to make it 2-0.
According to MLSsoccer.com, it was the first time that Dallas had ever held a multi-goal lead on the Dynamo. It did not last, though only a marginal offside call prevented Jackson from putting the home side three goals up before halftime.
The second period was quiet until Kofi Sarkodie robbed Michel deep in the Dallas penalty box in the 79th minute and slid the ball across the face of goal to Andrew Driver. Brought on as a substitute only ten minutes earlier for his MLS debut, the winger's expert left-foot finish went in off the crossbar.
Another defensive mistake allowed the Dynamo to equalize in the 83rd minute. Goalkeeper Raul Fernandez spilled a Cam Weaver cross into the path of Davis, who mopped up the loose ball.
Just as it appeared Houston would be going back down I-45 with a draw, Cooper claimed a dramatic and disputed 90th-minute winner, appearing to bring down a Michel cross with his arm before beating Tally Hall.
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.