Dec 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Dynamo react after the 2012 MLS Cup game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Dynamo's Ownership Saga: Conflict of Interest

*This is the third part of our series looking at Houston Dynamo’s Ownership Saga. The first part deals with our first DP and can be found here. The second part involves the Houston Dynamo’s issues spending money. This third part will deal with a possible conflict of interest with AEG having a stake in both L.A. and Houston.*

It has often been asked if AEG can own both the Galaxy and have an interest in the Dynamo without there being a conflict of interest. The truth is that this question can only be answered by AEG. Everybody else is merely speculating and chances are will have a bias.  

Are you telling me that Dominic Kinnear is capable of throwing a game?

Dynamo fans will say that AEG would rather not spend money on Houston since we are a smaller market, and they have a smaller ownership stake in the team than they do in the Galaxy. The truth is that AEG has spent money on transfer fees, facilities, and other aspects of the Dynamo.

The real issue may come in head-to-head competition. Is it possible for there to be deals brokered behind the scenes that benefit one team more than another? This issue has come up twice in back-to-back finals with both of them ending in the same result.

Before addressing a possible competitive conflict of interest between Houston and L.A., let’s look at an example of a group owning multiple teams within the same league, and how that affected competition amongst the teams.

As weird as it may seem, it isn’t uncommon for an entity to own multiple teams within a league. In Mexico, there was a time in when group led by Televisa owned America, Necaxa, and San Luis. Coincidentally enough, two of these teams faced each other in the 2002 Summer Final - America and Necaxa.

America came into the final not having won a title in 13 years. This was a travesty considering the fact that America is considered one of the big four teams in Mexico. The other three teams being Chivas, Cruz Azul, and Pumas. That final is wrapped up in controversy. Necaxa was a smaller team and had been crowned champions in 1995, 1996, and 1998 with the ’98 team having a familiar face in their squad, Dominic Kinnear. Since Necaxa had just won three championships, their fan base was not in any rush to watch them be crowned champions again. However, America’s fan base was becoming uneasy.

Dec 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan (left) is greeted by teammate David Beckham (right) after a second half goal against the Houston Dynamo during the 2012 MLS Cup game at the Home Depot Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan (left) is greeted by teammate David Beckham (right) after a second half goal against the Houston Dynamo during the 2012 MLS Cup game at the Home Depot Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The final’s controversy stems from bad calls being made the by referees. Soft fouls were called in favor of America throughout the first leg, but this controversy quickly became a non-factor because Necaxa finished the game with a 2-0 lead.

The second and final game seemed to be no more than foregone conclusion. However, America came out swinging in the second game and quickly got a goal back. Before the game came to an end America tied it against a Necaxa that was a down a man due to an earlier expulsion.

There had been rumors that referees were going to get paid off or be forced to call the game a certain way, especially since Televisa is a major television company that would benefit from their biggest team winning a title. They would be in line to receive better ratings the following year had their marque team won. This expulsion, therefore, became the main argument against an owner owning two or more teams in the same league in Mexico. To many fans, it wasn’t warranted, and in the end caused the game to go into overtime.

In overtime America ended up being crowned champions by scoring a sudden death “golden goal”. Fans of the league could not believe that Necaxa had let a two goal lead disappear, and that a referee could make such a game altering decision. People quickly jumped to the conclusion that Necaxa had let themselves be beaten so America could end their drought.

However, what most people don’t recall is the fact that this same America team had defeated Argentine giant River Plate in Copa Libertadores. They would then go to the semi-finals of that tourmanent before bowing out. It is clear that this team was not one that should have been taken lightly.

The first time that we got our first true test of a possible conflict of interest between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo was in the 2011 MLS Cup Final. David Beckham had yet to win a championship with L.A. after the huge investment by Major League Soccer. People quickly jumped to the belief that events might transpire so as to ensure that L.A. was going to be crowned champions of Major League Soccer.

This ended up being the case, however, it was not because Houston threw the game or the referees were biased. It was because Brad Davis, who had been the heart and soul of the Dynamo up to that point, had gotten injured in the Eastern Conference Final.

Sadly, conspiracy theorists had another chance to scream foul, when Houston faced the Galaxy for the second consecutive time in a final in 2012. Houston went on to lose that final, as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the final was rigged, however. Houston dominated the game early on and even jumped into an early lead with a Calen Carr goal, however, he left the field injured shortly after.

Credit: Nigel Brooks

Credit: Nigel Brooks

The truth is that sometimes people look for conspiracies where there are none present. Are you telling me that Dominic Kinnear is capable of throwing a game? As much as it hurts me to say it, Los Angeles had two nights in which they played better football than Houston.

Whether that’s because of two untimely injuries for the Dynamo or because Oscar Boniek Garcia had an off-day during the 2012 MLS Cup Final, nobody can honestly call into question the integrity of each player and coach for the Houston Dynamo. The referees weren’t even as bad as they have been in other games.

It would be to the benefit of AEG to have two championship caliber teams. That would mean they’d be selling-out two stadiums and rule two huge markets. What did AEG stand to lose if Houston had lifted the trophy on either of those nights?

Even if we give-in to conspiracy theorists, the first one could have been given to Los Angeles in order to give Beckham a championship but why the second one? AEG would have two different teams that they own win championships in back-to-back years. Now that’s a marketing tool if I’ve ever heard one.

In the end, the Houston Dynamo is a team that’s always competing for a championship and has only missed the playoffs once in their history. They’ve made it to four finals since 2006. I love living by the moniker that if it isn’t broken why fix it? Name me one other team in Houston that’s been that successful since 2006.

In fact, there aren’t many teams in any American sport that have been that successful. If being title contenders every year means I have to deal with AEG, and not have a “star player” then I’ll keep on cheering for Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia, and Ricardo Clark. They may not be mainstream star, but I would pit them against any other player that plays their position in Major League Soccer.

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Tags: AEG Houston Dynamo

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