The confetti has settled and stuck to the floor, but that doesn’t mean the party is still going, even with the sounds of horns and drums still ringing in one’s ear from the week before. No, that’s over and it’s time to get to work because that’s what Hector Herrera was brought in to do. Houston backs winners and even though the parties were fun, without returning to a winning culture, that soiree may be long forgotten.
Herrera arrived in Houston last week and there has been nonstop fanfare around his arrival. There were fans greeting him at the airport, the team rented out an event center to host an extravagant party, he came out to the mural the team had commissioned, and he was introduced at Sunday’s match, complete with dimmed lights and a hype video. Don’t get me wrong, the hype is warranted. Herrera is the captain of the Mexican National Team coming to a city with a huge Mexican population. Getting this fanbase excited is long overdue, there hasn’t been much to cheer about the last few years. The hype is great. Now, could the club maybe have directed that hype at other areas instead of events catered for the Supporter Groups and established fans? Could they have taken Herrera out to community centers and grocery stores in areas of town with large Mexican populations to sell tickets and get fans who aren’t Dynamo fans out to games? That’s an argument for another article but, yes.
Now that the hype around Herrera has reached a fever pitch, the time has come for him to do what is ultimately going to determine if his signing was a success or not, and that is turn the Houston Dynamo back into a perennial contender in Major League Soccer. Houston backs a winner, plain and simple. Look at the Astros. You could walk into Minute Maid Park and sit wherever you wanted for five bucks or less back in the early 2010s. Now that the team has been to five straight American League Championship Series and won a World Series, they are the hottest ticket in town. The Texans always seemed to be immune to any dip in support, but their recent dreadful seasons have seen their games emptier and emptier, and their season ticket holder wait list dwindled to nothing.
The city of Houston loves a winner and the Dynamo have seen that. When the team first moved to Houston and was winning MLS Cups, Robertson Stadium was the place to be. When the team went to two more finals and had the league’s longest home unbeaten streak as they moved to what is now PNC Stadium, Dynamo games were an event. If the Dynamo are going to become relevant again and more than an afterthought to a good chunk of the population, they must win, plain and simple.
The new ownership group, led by Ted Segal, and the new front office look to have a plan in place. Herrera’s signing is a huge part of the plan. It not only showed the fan base ambition that has rarely been seen here but it shows that they hear the fans and want to connect with them. Bringing in the captain of the Mexican National Team will be a huge boost early on; we even saw it Sunday with over 19 thousand in attendance in the loss against Charlotte. That boost, however, will only last so long, as long as this team can win. There are plenty of holes left on this roster that need to be filled, perhaps starting in this summer transfer window. Herrera can’t do it alone but he can get things off to a great start. If they lose to Dallas Saturday and stumble in the few games after, the end of the season will be back to attendance numbers we have seen in recent years. If they can beat Dallas and start a run of games where they are picking up points, climbing the standings, and fighting for a playoff spot, PNC Stadium will be rocking into the fall months.
It all starts this week. The Dynamo can do events for Herrera every day until October and probably get people to show up. But, if you want people to last, people to become lasting fans of the city and the club, the Dynamo have got to get back to the playoffs, then get back to competing for MLS Cups. The balloons are all out of air, the drinks are empty, the paint on the mural is dry. It’s time for Hector Herrera to do what he does best, play soccer.