CARSON, Calif. – That the Houston Dynamo are overlooked and underappreciated has become standard operating procedure for MLS in late autumn.
Of course, that’s all well and good from an organizational perspective. Houston already have their brand new stadium. They’ve got two MLS Cups in their trophy case and are about to make their fourth final appearance in seven seasons. They’ve cultivated a club culture that rivals any in Major League Soccer.
But what Dynamo players don’t seem to have is an upwelling of support when it comes to national team call-ups. And perhaps it’s the under-the-radar vibe that surrounds the team that prevents some of the league’s top talents – in particular Brad Davis, Tally Hall and Corey Ashe – from getting looks with the United States.
Unlike LA, their opponent on Saturday in the MLS Cup final (4:30 pm ET; ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN/RDS in Canada) who practically live in the spotlight, Houston players often find exposure hard to come by, which could make catching Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye a bit more difficult.
“I think it makes a difference,” said Hall, who admitted he would cherish an opportunity to represent his country. “You look at our team and I think there are definitely guys that are good enough to be on the national team. Brad is the best left midfielder in the league. You look at his league stats and what he does in big matches – the All-Star Game and how smooth he was last year against Manchester United – and it’s obvious this guy can play at any level.
“I think Corey Ashe is a guy who flies under the radar a lot. … For me, he’s got to be one of the most improved players on our team, and I think in the league. It would fun to watch that partnership on the national team and at least be given a shot.”
Davis has just four caps with the US, and seems destined to remain a domestic star and international afterthought for the time being. Meanwhile, Ashe has turned himself into one of the league’s best left backs, steadily improving on the defensive side of the ball to complement his blistering pace, dogged competitiveness and comfort on the ball.
Of course, Hall deserves to be in that conversation as well. After seizing the starting goalkeeper job in Houston before the 2011 season, the Washington native earned his first All-Star nod and came on as a second-half sub against Manchester United at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Like Hall, Ashe became a permanent starter in 2011, eventually locking down the left side of the Houston defense. Meanwhile, Davis continues doing what he does best, setting his teammates up – 42 assists during the past four seasons – and scoring the occasional goal, including eight during the 2012 campaign.
Yet the US rumblings seem to surround the Galaxy’s standouts ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup final. That’s just the way it is, according to Ashe.
“Any time you have the stars that they have on their team, they’re going to get a lot of exposure, a lot of attention,” he said. “For us, I’ve said it for a while now, we’re a team that goes under the radar. No one really expects us to do anything, and then when we get in the playoffs, all of a sudden we’re the talk.”
And although the team accomplishments mean the most to the selfless Dynamo, there is also hope that those efforts, those victories will lead to some individual plaudits and opportunities as well.
Former Houston defender Geoff Cameron seemed to truly solidify his place with the US only after he’d flown the coop for Stoke City. Whether or not it will take a similar shift for Houston’s current trio of hopefuls is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that they’d relish the opportunity to prove themselves on the international stage.
“Obviously, it would a great honor to be called up. Any time you get recognition, it makes you feel great,” Ashe said. “Right now, the only thing I’m focusing on is tomorrow’s game.”