As I was writing this I quickly came to the conclusion that if I wrote everything about our “Ownership Saga” in one article, it would read way too much like a book. I will instead divide this into a couple of parts, and allow the reader to dissect each article as it is released. Here is part one for your reading (dis)pleasure!
It seems like every season Houston Dynamo fans recycle the same conversations. How many seasons have gone by in which we complain about our lack of a “target man” in the box, or about how we would play better with a “natural 10″? One of these annual discussions involves ownership.
There once was a time that people believed that the only way we would sign a “big name” player would be once we either got a stadium of our own or AEG sold the Houston Dynamo. The Oven opened on May 12, 2012, and two years later we are still waiting for Ronaldinho to wear a Dynamo jersey. Now the only argument left is whether our ownership is keeping us away from that signing.
In February of 2008, just months after winning their second MLS championship, Oscar De La Hoya became a minority owner of the Houston Dynamo. He would control 25% of the team, while his good friend, Gabriel Brener, would own another 25%. AEG remained with a 50% ownership stake of the team.
After becoming a minority owner, Oscar de la Hoya made sure to grant interviews to every single Spanish-speaking station that was willing to give him air time. He went on the record multiple times stating that he believed Houston deserved a “Mexican star” to represent the Hispanic contingency. Here it seemed that Houston would finally receive their “big name” player that they had been hoping for.
One year later, Houston got their Mexican player, but he was not a star. Enter Luis Angel Landin, at the time he had represented the Mexican National Team, but it had come without glory. He was also the highest goalscorer for his team, but it was a Cruz Azul that was closer to relegation than becoming champions. Houston Dynamo fans did not really care about his stint with Cruz Azul or Mexican National Team. All they remembered was the young striker that had played for C.F. Pachuca.
Pachuca and Houston had a beautiful and competitive rivalry that caught our hemisphere by surprise. Each team was playing their highest level of soccer, a level neither team has been able to reach since, and Landin was part of that rivalry.* This was the player that fans in Houston expected to see. What they did not know was the fact that Landin was practically kicked out of Pachuca for being lazy and having his father, whom was also his agent, argue with the coaching staff for more playing time.
For that reason, Luis Angel Landin’s loan to the Houston Dynamo came quite easily. Looking back now, why would Cruz Azul loan out their highest goalscorer? Why not keep him on the team, and hopefully be the one salvageable point in their horrendous season? It has since become apparent that Landin is a problem player, since leaving Pachuca in 2007, he has played for 8 teams. All of these teams, without counting Pachuca or Cruz Azul, have been teams in either the second division or a team fighting relegation.
Landin came to Houston, appeared in around 16 games and only scored twice. He was a complete bust. During his stint here, he was involved in marketing the team to the Spanish-speaking community. After leaving Houston, his first season back in Mexico he played 43 minutes. It was clear that he was not the “Mexican Star” De La Hoya or Houston wanted or needed.
The reason why I feel it’s important to bring up Landin when it comes to our ownership saga is, because I feel his signing was almost forced by the new owners. Anybody that had been keeping up with Mexican soccer could have told you that Landin was a problem player. However, I feel that De La Hoya’s search for a Spanish-speaking star forced the other owners to also agree on the signing. Dominic Kinnear just knew the Landin that he had personally seen play for Pachuca. What he did not know was the fact that Pachuca tends to have some of the stricter coaches in Mexico.
De La Hoya wanted to tap the Hispanic market in Houston, not only to sell Dynamo tickets, but also to further promote Golden Boy Productions. This was magnified one thousand fold when he promised boxing events at BBVA Compass Stadium, if it were built. For the record, Golden Boy Productions has held events in Houston but not at BBVA Compass Stadium. Having boxing events at soccer specific stadiums was not going to be something new, and “coincidentally” the most famous one to do it is AEG owned and operated StubHub Center, formerly known as Home Depot Center, and current home of the also AEG-owned Los Angeles Galaxy.
Was the Houston Dynamo just a marketing ploy for Oscar? Can two teams with the same owners compete in the same league without conflict of interest? Those are some things to ponder for now, and for the next part in our series.
*As a lifelong Pachuca fan and Houston Dynamo diehard since they became a team, you can expect an article that chronicles this rivalry in the first installment of our Houston Dynamo flashback series.