I used to get a kick out from the media echo that falsely tied “big atmosphere” with “tough place to play.” There is but one way to measure the actual difficulty road teams encounter, and that’s with raw data.
We could always tell that Houston, good in atmosphere but not quite Portland- or Seattle-level, was mean as razor wire when playing in Texas, and the numbers reflected it.
Now the latest evidence: Houston has established the longest unbeaten streak (across all competitions) in Major League Soccer history. The string reached 35 matches with Sunday’s win over Chicago, thus passing Real Salt Lake’s record set in 2011.
The Dynamo has gone 29 matches without a league loss; they can take that record from Real Salt Lake with a win in two weeks over the Colorado Rapids at BBVA Compass Stadium, which is nearing its one-year birthday.
It’s easy to credit the oppressive conditions visitors typically encounter in muggy Houston, and that’s certainly a piece of this puzzle. But Houston manager Dominic Kinnear rightly notes this is about more than conditions. It’s about having a strong bunch of players, he says, a group that has made it to MLS Cup the past two seasons.
People say ‘What is the secret?’ and I always say that we just have a good team. It’s about consistency. I think we have always had a good team, have always played well at home but if you don’t have a good team, you don’t have that record.”
That’s true, but only to a point, because the Dynamo is clearly better at home. While the Dynamo have been exceptional at home (especially over the last three years, when they are 25-3-10 in Houston), Kinnear’s side has been about average on the road since moving to Texas with a 26-45-39 overall mark. So, clearly the “good team” finds the best version of itself when playing at home.
The Houston Chronicle story linked above says the Dynamo’s streak is the third-longest in North American pro sports history. It trails the Chicago Bulls’ 44-game unbeaten streak from 1995-96 and the Montreal Canadiens 38-game streak in the 1976-77 season.