Despite the fact the Eastern Conference leading New York Red Bulls come to town on Saturday and the Dynamo face a midweek trip to Los Angeles, attention seems focused on the following weekend when FC Dallas comes to Houston for the first of two matches between the I-45 rivals. Fortunately, the trash talk seems limited to the front office and the fans, while the team is focused on the Red Bulls and that's just fine, in fact, it's the way it should be.
Just how much of a rivalry there is between the Dynamo and FC Dallas is open for debate. Yes there is El Capitán , the working 18th century mountain howitzer cannon that the winner of the season series gets to keep for the year. Sure there is the decades of dislike between the two cities, but is that enough to translate in to a rivalry between two soccer clubs? The answer isn't cut and dry but it feels like an actual rivalry is starting to build, though I'm confident that a Dynamo or FC Dallas fan (yes, there are a few) would tell you to keep the damn cannon, we want an MLS Cup.
In the first few season after Houston got the Dynamo, there was an attempt to create a rivalry. It made sense, Houston and Dallas have never seen eye to eye on anything, so it was a natural move from a marketing perspective to create a derby between to two teams. Despite the best efforts of the respective front offices and the league alike, you never got the sense that a real rivalry was forming, it all felt a bit contrived. Sure the games between the two were contentious but the Dynamo dominated and while FC Dallas began a decline that would last until the 2010 season, Houston won two MLS Cups (including one in FCD's home stadium) and quickly placed itself ahead of their "rival" from the north.
The best thing that could ever happen to the rivalry was 2010. FC Dallas finally got their shit together and had an excellent season, going all the way to the MLS Cup and nearly defeating the Colorado Rapids for their first league title. They also won a match in Houston at Robertson Stadium, something they have never done (a draw in 2008 sort of counts I suppose). There something to be said about the phrase, "It's not really rivalry if only one team is winning".
Don't misunderstand me here, I don't like to see the Dynamo lose any matches, let alone to Southern Oklahoma's finest soccer club, but in order for a rivalry to truly blossom, both teams need successes and failures. Everyone loves a big victory over a rival, but it's the losses than you really remember and stick with you for a long time. The better the two clubs are and the more weight their match-ups carry, the more intense things get and thus, the more fun and engaging the rivalry becomes. As great as the billboard the Dynamo placed in Dallas is, and as great as the new marketing video is, it's not these actions that will truly build a rivalry. It's wins and losses and more importantly, it's time.
This will be the sixth season that Houston and Dallas play in MLS and we are starting to see the roots of a long standing rivalry built around the actual games beginning to take hold. We're also seeing the front offices become smarter and more creative with how they sell and market the rivalry, all of which will ultimately make the Texas Derby, or whatever you want to call it, a fun and successful event.
All that said, I'd still rather have the Dynamo beat FC Dallas every single time they meet and we all know that there's only one team in Texas; that is what a real rivalry is all about.