Is Wednesday’s Texas Derby between the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas the most important meeting between the rivals since the 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs? A strong case can be made that it is. Players and coaches may discount that notion, preferring to look forward rather than back, but in terms of stakes for both clubs, a lot will be on the line at BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday (7:15 p.m).
The quarterfinal meeting is the latest U.S. Open Cup duel between the Texas rivals since 2006, when Houston knocked out FC Dallas 3-0 in a quarterfinal matchup at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Stadium at the University of Houston.
FC Dallas beat the Dynamo in consecutive years in the U.S. Open Cup in 2013 and 2014, but each occasion was in the fourth round, two games before Wednesday’s quarterfinals round. Moreover, the clubs have met 25 times in the regular season since 2006, but few of those meetings truly held make-or-break significance, with a playoff berth or major honors on the line, apart from winning El Capitán.
Wednesday’s game represents a major opportunity for both clubs. For the Dynamo, it would mark another milestone win for interim head coach Wade Barrett, who guided the Dynamo past another rival, the defending U.S. Open Cup champion Sporting Kansas City with a 3-1 win last round. It would leave Houston two wins away from its first Open Cup title, a huge accomplishment following the May coaching change.
"We approach it with excitement and opportunity. It’s a quarterfinal in a big tournament," Barrett told media after Friday's match. "The guys have fought hard to get there. We’ve got a couple days to rest and recover and we’ll be ready to go. It’s a great opportunity for us."
For FC Dallas, a win would deal a blow to its biggest rival and move them two steps away from winning the Open Cup for the first time since 1997. The club is owned by Hunt Sports Group and has always prioritized winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Hunt formed the Dallas Tornado of the NASL in 1967 and was influential in the 1994 World Cup bid for the United States as well as the launch of MLS. The Hunt family bought the Dallas Burn in 2002 and relaunched the club as FC Dallas three years later.
FC Dallas sits atop the Supporters’ Shield standings and reached the Western Conference finals last November. The Open Cup represents a chance for the North Texas club to win the first of multiple trophies in 2016.
FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja signaled the importance of Wednesday’s game with his lineup selection last Wednesday at Seattle, holding out regular starters such as Fabian Castillo, Michael Barrios and Matt Hedges in a 5-0 road defeat.
The Colombian offered a practical explanation following the match: “We needed to choose tonight. We have a game in three days at home,” Pareja told media. “We just came from San Jose directly to Seattle. We have the Open Cup in the middle of [next] week – it’s an important tournament for us. Then after that, we have Colorado away.”
A first-choice group took the field for the North Texas club on Saturday night as they ran out to a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire in Frisco.
Similarly, Barrett told reporters last week that he would make a plan for potential lineups for the spell of three games in nine days, with possible adjustments needed following the Galaxy game on Friday.