Of all the memories generated during the first year of BBVA Compass Stadium, Adam Moffat provided one of the sweetest.
The midfielder collected the ball in the eighteenth minute, took a touch and crushed a shot past Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen from 30 yards to give the Dynamo a 1-0 lead in the first leg of last November’s Eastern Conference playoff semifinal.
It was one of the best and most important goals of 2012 - and a strike sure to bring back unpleasant recollections for tomorrow’s visitors when they arrive at the stadium for a match that will mark twelve months to the day since the inaugural game at the Dynamo’s new downtown home, a 1-0 win over D.C. United.
HIGHLIGHTS: BBVA Compass Stadium Opener
Will Bruin added another goal as the Dynamo went on to beat Sporting 2-0. Peter Vermes’ side could only win 1-0 at Sporting Park in the return leg, so Houston progressed, 2-1 on aggregate.
“It’s been a good first year in the stadium for sure and the last home game against Kansas City was a good one. That was a great day, the first playoff game we played at the stadium. There was a great atmosphere, we got a great result and set ourselves up nicely for the run [to MLS Cup] last year. Hopefully we can keep that going,” Moffat told HoustonDynamo.com.
“It was obviously fantastic to get that first goal in the game. It was a tense game. Any time I score a goal is always a good moment but to score that one in that fashion, it feels good to think about. It’d be great to get another one this year but as long as we get the result it’ll be good.”
Primarily a defensive midfielder, the Scot’s combative attitude personifies the team’s determined style. He does not score often – but when he does, it tends to be dramatic. One of the 26-year-old’s two other goals in 2012 was a “Moffat Rocket” from distance that tied a match against Columbus Crew late on, helping to preserve a home unbeaten streak that now stands at an MLS-record 36 fixtures in all competitions.
Should Sporting be ready for history to repeat itself on Sunday? “Most of the time I don’t think ‘I’m going to get the ball and have a shot here’. It’s like a quick thought that just comes through my head and I just hit the ball,” he said. “It’s not that I get the ball and set it up to shoot. Sometimes it’s just spur of the moment in that situation – ‘you know what, it’s on right here, I’ll do it’…. If it comes up again I’d go for it but that may be hard to top.”
Moffat is expecting Kansas City to be extra-motivated against the club that has knocked them out of the playoffs for two years running. Whenever the clubs meet now there is a genuine sense of occasion, an awareness that this is one of the most important rivalries in the Eastern Conference.
“When it’s against us and what we’ve done to them the last couple years, I’m sure that spurs them on. It’d spur me on,” he said. “We played the Galaxy last week and we lost in the final against them twice but we know we’re capable of winning and we just went out there and got the result.”
Last Sunday’s 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy was followed by a 4-0 dispatch of D.C. United on Wednesday. So a Dynamo side that arrived in California looking for its first road victory of the campaign produced two in the space of four days.
“Hopefully that sets us up nicely for the future. We know how strong we are when we produce records at home, when we’re undefeated for so many games at home. Trying to replicate that on the road isn’t always easy, especially when you’ve got to travel so much. But we’re capable of doing it, so hopefully we’ll keep that going and get more results like that on the road,” Moffat said.
The Dynamo have only lost one of their nine home games against Sporting, and that was the very first meeting between the clubs, back in 2006. But Dominic Kinnear’s men will need to improve on their most recent performance at home, a disappointing 1-1 tie with the Colorado Rapids, against a talented Sporting side that figures to provide the biggest threat so far this year to the Dynamo’s proud undefeated run.
The record stretches back to 2011, the final season at Robertson Stadium. How does Moffat explain the Dynamo’s ability to stay invincible despite the upheaval and novelty factor of a move to a new arena?
“A big factor’s probably still the weather. But probably for a third of the year I don’t think we have much of an advantage when it comes to the weather,” he said. “Once you get on a run you want to have that unbeaten streak, you want to keep that going. There’s a lot of pride at stake. In the games at home you’ve got that in the back of your mind – ‘I want to defend this’. We don’t give up, we really don’t, at home.”
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.