This Sunday afternoon, the Houston Dynamo head up to play FC Dallas in the Texas Derby. At stake are points, pride and El Capitán, which has a chance to remain in Houston for a third straight season.
I think everyone who reads this blog can agree on two things: Wednesday's result sucked, and this Sunday's match is important. Maybe it's not that important to conference standings (though I would never argue with three points), but it's still one of the most important matches the Houston Dynamo will play this season.
Despite my own beliefs in the rivalry (which I've written about in excess), Sunday's match against FC Dallas is still a quite important fixture. You see, the Dynamo happen to have a howitzer in their possession, and if they're anything like the fans, they're rather loath to the idea of losing it. El Capitán is the prize awarded to the winner of the Texas Derby, and for five of the seven years the rivalry has existed, the cannon has been here in Houston.
We all remember last year's match - a 2-1 victory for the Dynamo at home that featured yet another red card given to Jair Benitez (in his MLS career, every red card Benitez has received has been against the Dynamo) and the ensuing advantage of numbers that led to the Dynamo scoring the winning goal. We all remember Ricardo Clark seeing red after a kick to Carlos Ruiz that caused him to earn a 9 game suspension (including the 2007 MLS Cup). Admittedly, the rivalry seems to burn brighter for FCD supporters than it does for Dynamo supporters, but that's never stopped the in-state headbutting contests from spilling over into yet another venue.
Dallas has an improved roster - after losing Brek Shea to EPL side Stoke City, they went out and got Kenny Cooper back, as well as adding a few other names (specifically Je-Vaughn Watson) - and until they came unglued in the last twenty-five minutes against Chivas USA second match, looked to be much improved. They've notched a 1-0 home victory against the Colorado Rapids in their season opener before they blew a 1-0 lead to lose 3-1 at Chivas USA last weekend.
The Dynamo, meantime, stayed relatively silent, returning all eleven starters from last year's MLS Cup final. While supporters hoped that stability and cohesion has would translate into an abundance of goals, that hasn't happened yet, for whatever reason. In their first three matches, the Dynamo have scored only three goals, one of which was credited as an own goal by D.C. United's James Riley. Ricardo Clark scored against D.C. United - a match the Dynamo would win 2-0 - while Brad Davis' last minute heroics gave the Dynamo a slim 1-0 win over Liga MX side Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals.
Unfortunately, the Dynamo were shut out 3-0 in the second leg, and it's the taste of that loss that they'll try to wash away with a win in Frisco on Sunday. I stand by my maxim that there's no such thing as a guaranteed win - even with the rather one sided nature of this derby through the years. Also, after the bluster of some supporters turned into embarrassment a few days ago, I'd imagine that many supporters might try to rein in their over-exuberant predictions.
Then again, this is the Texas Derby. The sides in this match don't just play for points. They play for a howitzer, for pride, and for bragging rights. And in that case, perhaps exuberance is a necessary evil. Whatever the case, we can hope that come Sunday evening, El Capitán will once again be returning south down Interstate 45. I don't know about any of you, but it would be very nice to end this week on a high note.