One fan's take on the new stadium, nicknames, stats, and undefeated records.
While the 2012 season saw many things come and go, it also saw one thing that didn't change. The Houston Dynamo opened BBVA Compass Stadium in May having not lost a match at home since June of 2011. When they beat DC United 3-1 in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals on November 11th, they had completed an unbeaten season at home in their new stadium.
There's nothing unusual about a team playing well at home - no matter the sport, it's almost a given that they're going to play better in front of their own fans. In fact, it's the teams that don't perform well at home that are the anomalies. After all, they're playing in front of (mostly) their own fans, on the pitch they're probably the most used to playing on. Comfort and familiarity generally help out the home team, which is why most teams have nearly twice as many home victories as they do road victories (on a cursory check, the only team that hadn't done this in MLS is Seattle. Why? I don't know, either).
While there's nothing unusual about winning a majority of your matches at home, the prospect of going through a whole season undefeated at home is difficult enough that the Dynamo became only the fourth team to do it. The other three: the LA Galaxy in 2011, Real Salt Lake in 2010, and the San Jose Earthquakes in 2005 (coached by Dominic Kinnear and featuring Brad Davis, Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark).
And it was a season to remember, at least at BBVA. The Dynamo opened the stadium with a win against DC United, and they closed it down for the season six months later with another win against DC United. In between were a win against the Galaxy that prompted David Beckham to verbally eviscerate whoever makes the schedule, the continuance of possession of El Capitán, and qualification of the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, among other things.
Sure, there were ties in there that felt like losses, but when points were needed, BBVA was the place to get them. In the heat of a Houston July, the Dynamo played three home matches in seven days - and walked out with nine points. Need a tone set for a playoff series? Winning the first legs at home carried the Dynamo all the way to the MLS Cup Final this year.
Opposing players may have hated it, but the Dynamo players certainly felt at home here. In all competitions, only three players scored more goals away than they did at home - Luiz Camargo, Brian Ching and JeVaughn Watson. Of those three, Camargo and Watson both scored only one goal all year. As for Ching, only two of his six goals came at home - but that can also be attributed to his role as a substitute most of the season. He generally would only come on late in a match when goals were needed - a situation that the Dynamo were not often in at home.
While I will say that I dislike the "Oven" nickname that's been going around for BBVA Compass, I do think the stadium needs a good moniker - and I propose one in the title to this post. A fortress is held. It gets defended. A fortress is impregnable. And this season, the Dynamo proved BBVA was impregnable. Hopefully, this continues - and hopefully somewhere down the line, they can parlay their home dominance into a MLS Cup Final in Houston. But those are tasks for next year. For now, we can celebrate an untarnished stadium and an undefeated home record.