Houston Dynamo Flashback Series: Texas Pro Soccer Festival

A couple months ago we did a Flashback on the 2008 Season as a general overview and one part that was mentioned was the ever awesome Texas Pro Soccer Festival. It’s worth diving into the Festival with more detail because it was so much fun and, hopefully, we can convince you guys, the awesome fans, that it needs to come back (slightly modified…more on that later). Without further adieu, lets jump right into one of the best pre-season tournaments in Dynamo history.

So back in the first week of March, 2008, DC United, Toronto FC, Chivas USA (RIP) and the Houston Dynamo gathered in the San Antonio suburb of Cibolo, TX, to play a few games together as a warm-up for the Major League Soccer season set to kick off on March 29 (with a CONCACAF Champions Cup series in between). Steele High School Stadium was the venue of choice and fans flocked to the Alamo City to watch their teams play, including yours truly. Since the tournament fell during my birthday, I took the week off and stayed over in San Antonio for the whole Festival, and it was awesome.

Firstly, coming off a second championship, the fan base was super excited to see their club defend their title again and be back in international play. Getting to see, up close and personal, legendary players, even back then, like Brian Ching, Dwayne De Rosario, Stuart Holden, and Eddie Robinson, along with newcomers like Geoff Cameron, Bobby Boswell and Franco Caraccio. And, of course, Tony Caig.

Back in those days, Chivas USA was still a team to be feared. They were coming off of winning the Western Conference the previous year and had young stars in Brad Guzan, Sacha Klejstan, Jonathan Bornstein and a lethal striker in Ante Razov, with a crafty coach in Preki. The Dynamo were definitely hoping to glean some information about them during the Festival so as to upset them later in the season (Spoiler Warning: it worked. 1-0-2 record).

Houston Dynamo Supporters during Final at Texas Pro Soccer Festival vs DC United

DC United was a smart choice as well, since they were the dominant club back then. You had Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio, who was the reigning MVP, Golden Boot Winner and on the MLS Best XI; legendary striker Jaime Moreno, former Dynamo back-up goalkeeper Zach Wells and future coach Ben Olsen. Toronto FC came in with their own star power in Englishman Danny Dichio and Honduran Amado Guevara. Suffice to say there was plenty to enjoy on the field for fans to enjoy, even if they were all in preseason form.

The games were all a blast to watch, with double-headers each day. Once all the games were played and points tabulated, the Dynamo came out on top, foreshadowing the season to come.

Some more fun came while wandering around town, checking out souvenir shops or El Mercado and bumping in to players from yours or other teams and getting the chance to chat up non-soccer things, such as the necessity for a Texas Pride trinket to take back home.

Really, though, that’s only half the reason why the Festival was so much fun. I could talk about how the weather was awesome (it was) or how San Antonio is an amazing place to visit (it is). It wasn’t just being able to be around a bunch of like-minded fans from across the state for an extended period of time, both on and off the field (it was). The real key part was the idea voiced by the organizers that they wanted to make it an annual event, but perhaps Texas only once there were enough teams.

And here is where we veer off track a bit and talk about the future.

Head Coach John Carver thought it best for the players to focus on training and preparing for the season while the other players got to mingle and enjoy themselves. It made for some comical times.

Starting next year, Texas will have 4 full professional soccer teams in the Houston Dynamo, San Antonio Scorpions, Austin Aztecs, and some team that plays in a suburb north of Dallas (aptly called FC Dallas). Major League Soccer seems set on starting their season in early March, while the North American Soccer League, home of the Scorpions, starts there’s a month later and United Soccer Leagues, home of the Aztecs, is in the middle.

It would be beyond fun for the fans, players and staff to get the chance to scrimmage each other in February with Texas pride on the line. Perhaps even to make it a rotating event where each team can host every 4 years. As NASL and USL Pro push their schedules back over time (like MLS has) the date will be even more ideal for all.

Getting the chance to meet up with fans from across the state, and not mostly just Dynamo fans like in 2008, while cheering our team on against other Texas clubs, would be the pinnacle of excitement. The relaxed atmosphere of the Festival, on and off the field, allowed everyone to mingle and and enjoy themselves (well, all except TFC). With the Lone Star State lacking any kind of rivalry amongst it’s clubs, due to being in 3 different leagues, this would help fill that void as well as bringing the clubs closer together for future business relationships (such as loans, training tips, etc). It would also help rival the current best pre-season tournament to date, held by the Charleston Battery, every winter.