MLS Rivalry Week backstories: Houston vs. FC Dallas

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If we examine the back stories on how rivalries achieve their deliciously acrimonious state – real rivalries, that is, and not the manufactured ones fans tend to sniff out and disregard with extreme prejudice – they usually check the box on one or more of the elements you see in the box below.

Here we look at the FC Dallas-Houston Dynamo rivalry, and which boxes get checked in the Texas Derby:

The teams meet at 1 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN2) at FC Dallas Stadium.

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The backstory:

If you live in Dallas, you don’t like Houston.

Other way around, too. That’s just the way it is.

Informed sources have been trying to dissect this one for decades. Of course, we are just talking about soccer here – no need to delve into the cultural nitty-gritty of it all. In some ways, it’s just down to the two largest cities in a large, proud state.

So when Houston relocated from San Jose before the 2006 season, this one was an immediate natural, an I-45 series of contention in soccer to go with the I-45 rivalry in NBA, in NFL, in MLB etc.

And it does get nasty, even in preseason. Like a rather notorious incident about 14 months ago when a clash between Houston’s Geoff Cameron and Dallas’ Jair Benitez (which may have involved some spitting from the FCD man) nearly launched a full-on donnybrook before the regular season even started.

This piece from Big D Soccer attempted to put the rivalry into some context, although the bottom line was essentially, “fans from Houston don’t like fans from Dallas, and it’s mutual.” From the story: “Their other sports teams may just be pitiable, but the Dynamo have proven themselves worthy of outright scorn.”

The Texas Derby also has one of the league’s unique, uh, “trophies.”  The two clubs compete annually for El Capitán, a replica 18th century howitzer cannon. (And that bad boy goes boom with a menace; the wise fans on either side know to brace themselves.)

On the field, the rivalry has been a bit lopsided; El Capitan has found its home in Houston five times, vs. just twice going north to FC Dallas Stadium. Even in Dallas, the team from North Texas is just 2-3-4 against Houston.

Sunday’s match:

source: Getty Images

Houston must pick themselves up from the disappointment of its quarterfinal series loss in CONCACAF Champions League; Dominic Kinnear’s team fell to Santos Laguna, with the Dynamo defense looking very un-Dynamo-like in the return leg four days ago in Torreon, Mexico.

But the Dynamo did open its MLS account profitably; Ricardo Clark (pictured) ran the show as the the MLS Cup runner-up downed D.C. United in a reprise of last year’s Eastern Conference final.

Dallas, notoriously slow starters during Schellas Hyndman’s time in charge, has struggled to get its midfield act together, having hung on for a 1-0 win at home over Colorado to open the season, but then falling at Chivas USA in a messy match last weekend in California. Panamanian international Blas Perez should add some pep and passion to the FCD front line, getting into the team for the first time in 2013 after serving a two-game suspension.

The full preview from MLSSoccer.com is here.

MLS on NBC makes its 2013 debut Saturday when Arlo White and Kyle Martino call New York Red Bulls against D.C. United at 12:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network carries two contests after that (Sporting KC vs. Chicago Fire, then Seattle vs. Portland). In between, “The Breakaway” will show goals from foursome of matches NBC is not carrying.

ProSoccerTalk’s series of Rivalry Week back stories:

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.