From the moment the league was started in 1996, native Houstonian Carlos Balderas had a strong interest in following Major League Soccer, but without a hometown team, it was hard for him to get truly invested. However, after returning from the Marine Corps in 2006, a newspaper headline caught his eye that drastically changed his interest in the league and ultimately led to an obsession.
“I was reading the newspaper one day and I saw a headline about ‘Houston Dynamo advance to MLS Cup Final,’ and I remember freaking out and wondering when Houston even got a team,” Balderas recalled. “The first Dynamo game I ever watched was the 2006 MLS Cup, which I had found out about probably two days before. By 2007 though, I was all in. I was at every game at Robertson Stadium and that’s when I bought the 2006 home and away jerseys.”
Those first two jerseys led to the decision to buy every new orange jersey, but then Balderas bought a white jersey instead, and before he knew it, he was on a mission to own every version of the Dynamo jersey ever released.
“I remember the 2008 jersey came out and the style was the same as before, but the star had been added, so I obviously bought that one, and that’s when it really all started and I decided to make the collection go long term,” Balderas said. “Little by little the Dynamo started adding more one-off jerseys and I had to have them all, so it has kind of turned into an addiction.”
While he has given some away as gifts or in trades over the years, the collection now contains about 65 or 75 jerseys, not counting any duplicates, and features numerous jerseys with memorable stories attached to them.
“I have an ’06 white jersey with ‘Houston’ across the front that Ryan Cochrane signed, and there’s blood on the left sleeve and armpit area from being game-worn,” Balderas explained. “I also have an 1836 training top that the equipment manager posted on a soccer forum about trying to get rid of, and a ’11 Earth Day jersey where the lettering is in purple and green to match the Greenstar company colors, so those are really cool.”
There are also game-worn jerseys from all four of the Club’s MLS Cup appearances, numerous Dynamo Charities Cup jerseys, and even an AJ DeLaGarza jersey featuring the “Luca Knows Heart” patch on the inside of the Dynamo badge, but there is one particular jersey that Balderas is most proud to own.
“In 2007, the Dynamo used their ’06 jersey template and had them done in maroon to wear in honor of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting earlier that year,” Balderas said. “There were only 18 of those made, for the 18 players who dressed, and they auctioned them off that day at the stadium. That has to be my favorite jersey, just because it has such a cool story to it and I thought it was great for the Dynamo to do that.”
While some of the jerseys were simply handed to Balderas by players walking off the pitch, and others were won at silent auctions or through donations at charity events, not every jersey was easy to obtain.
“I had completely written off the ’08 Concacaf Champions Cup jersey because I figured it would be impossible to get,” Balderas explained. “Honestly, all the ones with Concacaf patches were hard to find, but I was actually able to get the ’08 one through a buddy of mine, so I consider it to be the rarest. I’ve never seen another one with that patch. I’ve even seen some of the other Virginia Tech ones posted online, despite there only being 18 out there, but never another jersey like that one.”
The Dynamo season ticket member admits he has struggled to add new jerseys to his collection over the last few years, but retelling his journey thus far has only reignited his passion and set him on the trail for his next great piece of the Dynamo’s 15-year history.
“I think doing something like this shows your loyalty to the team, or at least how long you have been a fan of the team, because some of these jerseys would be impossible to get now unless someone who was a fan back then gifted them to you,” Balderas said. “And now, looking back at all my jerseys has made me look into some of the ones I’m still missing. I have the Charities Cup jerseys from ’13, ’14 and ’15, so my next goal is to get the Dynamo Charities Cup jersey from 2016 when they played Real Socidedad from Spain.”
Check out a few images of the collection below!