Now that it’s all said and done, you have to admit the pieces really fall into place.
Erick “Cubo” Torres is an explosive young talent, proven in Major League Soccer but lacking a team after Chivas USA disintegrated. The Houston Dynamo are a stable franchise that needed to inject some life into a strike force that leaned a bit too heavily on Will Bruin and Giles Barnes.
New manager Owen Coyle is promising exciting football in Houston, a city that is 40-plus percent Hispanic. MLS pays $7.5 million for Torres who, after a six-month loan stint to Guadalajara, stays extremely marketable for the league.
“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Houston Dynamo. It’s one of the premier clubs in MLS and a place where I really wanted to sign,” Torres said in a club statement. “I can’t wait to join my teammates in Houston and continue their success on the field.”
Torres will join the Dynamo after a six-month loan to Chivas Guadalajara that was negotiated as part of the transfer deal. The loan will see Torres spend “up to six months” in Liga MX, according to the team release.
Houston missed the playoffs by 10 points in the Eastern Conference, and certainly needed to make amends for a woeful attack unit that scored the fourth-fewest goals in Major League Soccer.
— Torres scored 15 goals in 29 games this season, while Houston forwards Will Bruin (10), Omar Cummings (3) and Mark Sherrod (2) combined for 15 (Barnes had a team-high 11).
— Torres took 95 shots last season, a pace that would’ve put him in a race with Barnes to lead the Dynamo.
— Torres turns 22 on Jan. 19.
Houston could be sneaky good next year, even in a new, tougher West.
The Houston Dynamo president earns our praise for the latest MLS storyline that is DaMarcus Beasley’s return to Major League Soccer, but also for giving us soccer sleuths the task of uncovering which other World Cup starter he’s bringing to Texas.
To recap: at the end of the press conference unveiling Beasley as the latest Houston player, Canetti dropped some major hints on the next player tabbed to join the team.
Glenn Davis asked Chris Canetti to comment on the rumor the Dynamo might be adding another player that has World Cup Experience.
Chris Canetti’s reply was golden, “It is real. We are indeed in late stages of discussions with another player. That ties into the Warren Creavalle trade. We didn’t just trade Warren to move up and get the allocation slot for Beasley. We cleared him because we needed salary cap room for a secondary move. The player we are talking about would be a midfielder in the center of the park where we would’ve seen Warren playing minutes for us going forward.”
He continued, “we’re trying to finish it off, Glenn. He’s a player that is on his country’s national team. His country was in the World Cup, and he started all three games for that country in the World Cup.”
He also mentioned they would be working all through the night to try and get the deal done as quickly as possible.
Alright, so three starts in the middle means the player likely, though not certainly, comes from a team that flamed out in the group stage. Who could it be? Well, there could’ve been a theory that Houston could bring in a Honduran to pair withBoniek Garcia. How about bringing Roger Espinoza back this side of the Atlantic? The midfielder is 27 and has played 30 matches in 1.5 seasons at Wigan.
Or maybe there was a way Canetti could’ve been tricky with American fans: Nantes mid Ale Bedoya played in all four games for the USMNT at the World Cup, but only started three. And while he’s not a center mid, perhaps ‘center of the park’ was a purposefully vague?
As it turns out, the Honduran tip may work out, just with a different player (who did not start in three World Cup matches. Thanks for nothing, Chris).
MLS sources: Dynamo meeting with midfielder Luis Garrido this morning in effort to finalize an agreement. He played 4Honduras in World Cup.
Garrido, 23, would be likely coming on loan for the third-straight season of his career. A member of Olimpia in Honduras, Garrido was loaned to Deportes Savio (Honduras) in 2011 and Red Star Belgrade in 2013. He’s an aggressive, physical defensive center mid.
As the playoffs began last season, I had a brief Twitter exchange with Brendan Hannan (then a communication guy with Chicago) about the poor attendance at Toyota Park for the Fire’s first round match. In addition to the normal challenges facing Chicago’s ticket sales, the opening round match had fallen on Halloween. That combined with a weeknight’s trip to Bridgeview (say, 15 miles outside Chicago) and a short window to promote after their regular season finale meant only 10,923 showed up for the match.
Brendan’s explanations came to mind as I watched last night’s game in Houston, where a crowd of 10,476 watched the Dynamo eliminate the Montréal Impact. Though the result moves Houston a step closer to their third straight MLS Cup final, the night was disappointing on separate level. Every shot of the crowd forced television viewers to wonder why a good team with a history of success can’t draw more people to their two-year-old facility.
“There were some real challenges last night,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told me this afternoon, his sanguine explanation putting the low turnout in a different content. A practical conspiracy of factors — from the holiday, to short turn-around, to weather and a crowded sports week — helped produce the team’s season-low crowd.
The biggest issue was the holiday. For the second straight year, Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference playoffs started on Halloween. For a league and sport that tends to draw a younger audience, it’s a killer coincidence.
“For a huge percentage of our fanbase, that was the issue,” according to Canetti. “Halloween is a time you spend with your kids and you do things. I think that was a very difficult obstacle to overcome.”
It could have been overcome, Canetti feels, had other factors not lined up against the team. Houston was hit by another of their characteristic mini-monsoons mid-week, causing flooding throughout southeast Texas. By early afternoon on Thursday, the showers had been turned off, but the storm still kept people away from BBVA Compass.
The University of Houston also had a football game, forcing some fans to make a choice, but the bigger problem may have been an unexpectedly crammed media landscape. At a time of the year when the Dynamo can usually gain some traction, Dwight Howard was making his debut for the Rockets and the Texans were changing quarterbacks. Add in the unfortunate passing of local legend Bum Phillips, and Houston was squeezed out.
“The Dynamo have a great track record for attendance, particularly playoff attendance,” Canetti notes, the team averaging over 21,000 for their two 2012 playoff games. “One of the reasons we were able to drive such a great attendance in years’ past is because we were able to elevate our brand and get huge media exposure in the market. The media market was very cluttered this week in Houston.”
Given four days to get the word out, Houston couldn’t penetrate that market. The people who ended up at the stadium were the diehards.
“Those fans were loud, the ones that were there,” Canetti says. “Those are our most ardent supporters. They brought it last night.”
Like Chicago, Houston’s situation is unique, but as places like Kansas City, Portland, and Seattle show, there’s more to a full house than nice numbers and lined pockets. If you can fill out a stadium, the television product is much better, and if there’s one thing the league needs to be concerned about more than anything else, it’s how it comes off on broadcast. It’s part of the reason why the English and German leagues come off a little better than Spain’s (non-Barça, Real Madrid) or Portugal’s. It’s also the reason why a Philadelphia Union match creates a better broadcast experience than a D.C. United game.
Dynamo fans did seem louder than the 10,000-person crowds we see elsewhere, but with seas of orange seats visible around the stadium, MLS didn’t put their best foot forward. Instead of marveling at how far the league has come, people tuning in last night might wonder how far MLS needs to go.
“We’re a growing league, we’ve got an incredibly bring future,” Canetti confessed. “These are bumps in the road along the way.”
“I don’t think anybody wishes that we have to play mid-week playoff games, especially on a Halloween. That would include the folks at the league office. I certainly understand the scheduling challenges that put us in this position, especially this year as we have to battle a FIFA window coming up.”
But at some point, you have to set priorities. In that sense, maybe reducing the regular season schedule does make sense, providing a solution that will give the league more flexibility when scheduling these all-important, marquee matches. Or if a solution can’t be found for the first round game, perhaps eliminating them entirely should be considered. Four playoff teams in each conference seems like enough, even if Houston wouldn’t have made last year’s playoffs with a smaller field.
There’s little point to putting matches on television that aren’t going to show the league in a positive light. Did last night’s game cross that line? Perhaps not, but casual MLS fans tuning in for a playoff atmosphere didn’t get it. And it wasn’t the Dynamo’s fault.
“It’s not that we stink or we don’t know what we’re doing here,” Canetti explains. “We’ve got some real, real challenges that need to be understood.”
For teams like Houston and Chicago, those challenges include fighting for space in crowded sports landscapes. For MLS, the task is putting their franchises in the best position to win those battles.
Does the mid-week, quick turnaround playoff game do that? Not Thursday in Houston. Not last year in Chicago.
The Houston Dynamo-organized efforts to create a Soccer Night Out for grief stricken Newtown was always a wonderful, worthy cause. It was the brainchild of Dynamo general manager Chris Canetti, a Connecticut native.
Now it’s a wonderful and worthy cause that has grown into something truly special thanks to some of the recognized volunteers.
Originally, Canetti and several prominent players arranged to visit Newtown, site of the terrible Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on Jan. 7 to stage an event similar to ones they hold in and around Houston.
Now, names keep stacking up from the U.S. soccer community. Canetti revealed via Twitter over the weekend that U.S. women’s national team captain Christie Rampone and women’s soccer greats Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly will participate in the night.
ESPN’s Alexi Lalas, a former national team star, will also take part.
And it sounds like the event will continue to grow over the next week:
The title for the event is called Soccer Night in Newtown. We have a similar event that we put on here in Houston called Soccer Night Out where we bring a lot of our resources out to the community and have a little bit of fun with our players. We’ve kind of duplicated the idea in a smaller fashion several thousand miles of way.
“I think we all try to find ways to help and lend a hand. We’ve figured out a small way to help this community which happens to be a very, very rich youth soccer community.
“It’ll be fan-festival type of event, taking photos, signing autographs. The idea is to give kids a chance to come out, have some fun, have some memories and take a diversion from the difficult realities that they’re facing right now.”
Canetti, who also attended college in Connecticut, said via Twitter that he has had lots of offers to help in the endeavor: “Thanks to everyone who has offered to help at Soccer Night in Newtown. I’ve had dozens of tweets. Will keep you in mind if a need comes up.”